Mount de Sales ral­lies in all three sets to sweep St. Paul’s

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Af­ter com­ing out of nowhere to win the In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land A Con­fer­ence vol­ley­ball cham­pi­onship last year, Mount de Sales found it­self the hunted in­stead of the hunter this sea­son.

The No. 5 Sailors wore the man­tle well Sat­ur­day night, ral­ly­ing in all three sets to de­feat a scrappy St. Paul’s team, 25-20, 26-24, 25-20 and repeat as A Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons at Goucher.

As has been the case most of the year, the Sailors (14-3) were led by re­turn­ing Al­lMetro per­form­ers Mary Grace Goyena and Chid­inma Onuk­wugha.

“We had some slow starts in all three of the [sets], but we came to­gether,” Onuk­wugha said. “They beat us in five [Oct. 19], so we re­ally wanted to come out here and do this in three this time. We played with a tar­get on our back this year, and that def­i­nitely made it more chal­leng­ing.”

“I’m re­ally happy for the girls,” said first-year Sailors coach Pat Day­ton, who was an as­sis­tant at St. Paul’s last sea­son. “We talked a lot about [be­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pion], and how we were go­ing to get every­body’s best this sea­son. We had some bumps along the way, but I think we han­dled it well.”

The Sailors ac­tu­ally found them­selves trail­ing for a good portion of the first set, but set­tled down in the mid­dle. The rally was sparked by ju­nior Grace Wal­lace, who served six straight ser­vice win­ners and changed a 17-15 deficit into a 19-18 lead. Af­ter a kill tied the set at 19, the Sailors used blocks by Goyena and Onuk­wugha to outscore the Ga­tors, 6-1, and take the first set.

The se­cond set was like a tale of two dif­fer­ent teams for the Sailors. St. Paul’s (15-4) re­peat­edly cap­i­tal­ized on Mount de Sales’ mis­takes, but couldn’t put the Sailors away. With St. Paul’s lead­ing 21-16 af­ter a kill by Jalen Dick­er­son, Mount de Sales came back. The Sailors got four kills by Onuk­wugha to roar back for a 26-24 vic­tory.

The third set was pretty much a copy of the pre­vi­ous two, with the Sailors us­ing kills by Onuk­wugha, Goyena and Abby Kuhn down the stretch to break a 17-17 tie and earn a 25-20 win.

St. Paul’s coach Kelli Wilkin­son was up­beat about her team’s per­for­mance.

“If you’d have told me at the start of the year that we’d be here, I’d have laughed at you,” Wilkin­son said. “We made a lot of un­forced er­rors in the match, and that and our lack of of­fense did us in. You just can’t make er­rors like that against a team like Mount de Sales.”

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