In last year's 2A South volleyball quarterfinals, Patuxent came to Glenelg and caught the Gladiators off guard, winning the first two sets. Glenelg recovered to win the match in five sets, but a lesson had been learned.
This year, when Patuxent came back to Glenelg — this time for the 2A South regional semifinals Wednesday night — it was Glenelg that came out swinging. The Gladiators (12-3) recorded 54 kills en route to a 25-22, 25-21, 22-25, 25-13 win.
"We knew they were really scrappy, so we were going to get balls shoveled over here and we had to get our defense back on track," said senior setter Camryn Long, who managed the deep Gladiator offense and finished with five kills of her own. "We just had to make a really huge team effort all four games. In the third we let up a little bit, we were kind of coasting, but in the fourth set we just really put the pedal to the metal."
Senior Erin Jollota led Glenelg with 14 kills, including six in the final set, while juniors Lauren Wright (11), Morgan Perry (9) and Molly Calvert (8) added to the unpredictable attack. In one stretch, Wright hit the ball eight times and collected eight kills.
"I like all of our weapons ... I know Erin will always put the ball in the court no matter what and Morgan has so much power and when she gets a good swing it goes straight down, and Molly and Lauren have improved so much and they're always there for me," Long said.
Sophomore Sarah Girard also had five kills on Wednesday, and her little sister — Rachael — the team's freshman libero, served as the foundation of the defense.
"Sarah, we have such a good connection because we're both right side," Long said. "Even Rachael is a weapon sometimes, she can be a little bit funky."
But Glenelg certainly had to work for its points. Patuxent (11-4) engaged the Gladiators in many long rallies, and never let them run away with a set until the fourth.
The Panthers held an 18-16 lead in the first set before Glenelg went on a five-point run — featuring kills by Sarah Girard, Perry and Wright and an ace by Long — to take control.
"It was just a good game on both sides, a lot of good defense, good hitters on both sides," Patuxent coach Kevin Keller said. "Both teams fought throughout the whole match and as a coach that's all you can ask for."
The Panthers were led offensively by Chanel Underwood (11 kills), Shaelynn Schmidt (10) and Madison Scott (8).
Glenelg will now travel 70 miles south to top-seeded Calvert for the 2A South regional championship on Friday.
Patuxent played the Cavaliers twice this season, losing in five sets in their most recent encounter in early October.
"It'll be a very good match. It'll be back and forth," Keller said. "We'll be there to watch."
Glenelg coach Don Beall, who also coaches the Gladiators' girls basketball team, said that he's never lost to Calvert in volleyball, and never beaten them in basketball.
At stretches this season, Beall has been without Long (ankle) and Perry (concussion). He said that Monday's quarterfinal win over Lackey was the first time in a month that he's had his complete arsenal of players.
"I think if we're clicking we should be a pretty viable team," he said. "But Calvert's pretty good."
Calvert advanced to the regional championship by defeating visiting Marriotts Ridge on Wednesday.
Marriotts Ridge knocked Glenelg out of the regional tournament each of the past three seasons. Glenelg's last trip to the state tournament was in 2008, when it lost in the 1A state championship match. The Gladiators won the last of their four state titles in 2005.
According to a proposed regional realignment for 2013, Glenelg will join Atholton, Centennial, Long Reach, Mt. Hebron, Reservoir, River Hill and Wilde Lake in the larger 3A classification next season.
"I think we have a pretty good chance (at going all the way), we've just got to keep playing the way we're playing right now," said Long, who plays club volleyball with Calvert's setter, Lauren Carman. "Calvert is the big wall that we have right now and we just need to get past them ... we're just going to play our game and see what happens."
Carman was named MVP of the annual Gator Invitational at Reservoir in mid-October. Calvert lost to eventual champion Dulaney in three sets in the semifinals there. In pool play, River Hill swept Calvert in two sets. Glenelg and River Hill met twice this season during league play, splitting wins.