Hereford volleyball lost in the state semifinals for the third year in a row, but the Bulls did put a scare into Patuxent by taking the second set handily after dropping the opening set
Patuxent rallied to win, 24-18, 13-25, 25-19, 25-18, at Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland College Park on Thursday night.
Patuxent will play Rising Sun for the Class 2A championship on Monday at 6 p.m.
Hereford was making its third consecutive appearance in the final four and 11th overall.
The Bulls haven’t reached the final since 1981 and won the school’s only only two state volleyball titles in 1979 and 1975.
Patuxent, making its third appearance in the state semifinals, won state championships in 2013 and 2002.
Seniors Shannon Pitcher, Michelle Gateau and Kayla Stewart all played on the 2013 state champion squad and, just like that year, they all wore green bandannas for superstitious good luck reasons.
They didn’t need much luck as all three contributed with solid play, along with senior Rachel Anderson (4 kills).
Setter Pitcher finished with 23 assists to go along with 10 digs, four aces and six kills.
She ended the match with a traditional spike for a kill, but had two game-changing tip kills on second ball dumps in the third set.
The first came on a side out that stretched the Panthers lead to 22-14.
Three points later she ended that set with another one.
“I don’t really like to tip very often, but when the time comes and my team needs me and the pass is to tight, I have to be on my toes and keep the other team on their toes, so I had to just dump it,” Pitcher said.
Stewart (13 kills) and Gateau (11 kills) were the top hitters in the match f and Gateau and Savannah Carroll each added four aces.
In the first set, Savannah Carroll took over at the service line with a 7-6 lead and won three of the next four points with aces for Patuxent and they never trailed again.
The second set was a different story as Hereford jumped out to a 7-1 lead behind the serving of senior Liz Tilley and kills from senior Juli Davis (7 kills) and junior Erin Collins (6 kills).
They extended the lead to 12-2 with a block and kill from McKenna May (5 kills) and pair of kills from Collins.
“In the second game we played, really, really well,” Hereford coach Dave Schreiner said.
The closest Patuxent got in the second set was 15-9, but a kill by Tilley (team-high eight kills) was followed by a well-placed spike from Sabrina Bradford (5 kills) and ace from Cameron Bibaud (30 assists) and the lead was back up to 18-9.
“They are a tenacious group,” Patuxent coach Kevin Keller said. “I thought we played well when we were aggressive putting the ball down. When we got a little bit passive I think that’s when the other team took advantage of that.”
Patuxent overcame a 15-12 edge in service errors by firing 20 aces compared to Hereford’s seven.
Emerson Gieryic (4 kills), Tilley and Bibaud led the Bulls with two aces apiece while Stewart had six aces to lead Patuxent.
“Our serving was very aggressive which kept them on their heels a little bit, but once we let up a little bit, they got a little momentum,” Keller said.
Bibaud (13 digs), Kennedy Toomey (11 digs) and Erin and Heather Collins (9 digs each) led the Hereford defense that was most consistent in the second set.
“The better we passed the ball, the more opportunities we had and the better we were,” Schreiner said.
In the end it wasn’t quite good enough.
“I’m not that disappointed, said Tilley, one of three seniors along with Davis and Bibaud. “We played pretty tough. We fought. We could have done better, but being here three years and playing in two of them, I’m pretty excited that we got this far and won a game.”
Erin Collins, a junior, has seen the same losing ending in the state semifinals for three seasons.
“I think every year you just focus on getting closer and closer,” she said. “My freshmen year we started out rough and we didn’t have the best game, but my sophomore and junior years we kept getting better and better and hopefully next year we can come out even stronger.”
Schreiner expects that.
“Not only do we lose three great teammates as far as our seniors, but three great volleyball players as well,” he said. “I know that the seniors want to see us get here again next year and I know the kids are going to work hard in the off-season. We have a good nucleus of kids coming back and I know the kids are already excited.”