BALTIMORE — Success in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference prompted a move to the B Conference last year for the Annapolis Area Christian School volleyball team.
In just their second year in the B, the Eagles are once again conference champions.
After falling in the first set to Maryvale Prep in Saturday’s IAAM B Conference championship match at Roland Park, AACS won the next three to claim the title with a 21-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-13 victory.
AACS (17-1) won its 17th straight match since falling to Archbishop Spalding to start the season. The Eagles won their fourth conference championship after claiming C Conference titles in 2006, 2007 and 2015.
“This does validate it,” said 17th-year AACS coach Marianne Graham, on the move to the B Conference. “We’ve been very successful the last three years. We’ve built our team around a good, solid defense and I think that’s what helps grow a program.’’
AACS hadn’t dropped a set since it defeated Maryvale on Sept. 26. Similar to that match, the Lions again won the first set on Saturday. Maryvale jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the second, but kills on three consecutive points from Milan Gomillion helped the Eagles fight back to tie. The teams were tied three more times in the set before the Eagles pulled away late for the 25-18 victory to even the match.
Gomillion, who closed out the third set with a kill, led all hitters with 13 kills and went 11 for 12 serving. The freshman was the perfect complement this year to the Eagles’ group of five seniors.
“That was a good find,” Graham said. “We’re losing five seniors, but we still have Milan and Becca (Short), who are both good outside hitters.”
Short, a sophomore, went 18 for 20 serving with an ace on Saturday.
Sophie Thompson, one of five seniors, added nine kills and three blocks. She had two kills in the fourth set, including a pair during a 15-5 run that turned a tie into a 20-10 AACS lead.
“This just feels right. When we were winning, I said to one of my teammates, ‘This just feels right. This is the way it should be,’” she said. “We deserved this and we worked for this.”
Sophomore Skylar Emert followed with seven kills for the Eagles. She also served four straight points late in the fourth set to help stretch the lead.
Setter Morgan Lang had 29 assists for the Eagles, who’ve gone 24-1 in conference play the last two years after moving up.
“When we’re faced with a challenge, we just buckle down and fight through,” Lang said. “We never got angry or frustrated with each other, and I think that helps a lot. This is so satisfying. I’ve wanted this for a long, long time.”
Nicole Garner had nine digs and five blocks and went 15 for 17 serving with three aces, Grace Williamson had 10 digs and Megan O’Rourke added eight digs for AACS.
In addition to Lang, O’Rourke and Thompson, the Eagles will lose Michelle Wang and Camille Sims to graduation. According to Graham, all five contributed in many ways during the championship run.
“We depended heavily on our seniors, even the ones that were on our subs list,” Graham said. “Everybody on this team contributed to the success we’ve had this year. Everybody contributed to this championship, one way or another.”
Claire Neff had 11 kills, 13 digs and five blocks, Taylor Cover had nine kills and 16 digs, Erin Shaffrey added six kills and 25 digs and Kayla Koch had 21 assists and 14 digs for Maryvale (12-5).
“It just wasn’t our night,” Maryvale coach Missy Little said.