St. Paul’s School for Girls came through in the clutch in each of the first two sets on its way to a three-set sweep of Mount de Sales in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference volleyball championship.
The second-seeded Gators defeated the fourth-seeded Sailors, 25-21, 25-23, 25-16, Saturday to capture their first title since 2007.
The well-rounded attack was led by Sharon Hull (5 kills), but Cassidy Crossland, Kendall Burdette and Marylouise Sparrow (4 each), and Bella Pivec and Amanda Blank (3 each), all chipped in.
“All season long, all my five hitters are within five kills of each other,” said coach Kelli Wilkinson, who praised setter Blank for spreading the wealth. “Amanda did an incredible job.”
Blank’s most clutch work came in the first set, after Sailor senior Megan Hren’s ace was followed by a kill from Sparrow that tied the set at 21-21.
Blank proceeded to serve out the rest of the set with a pair of aces book-ending kills from Crossland and Pivec.
“When I go back to serve, I just block everything else out,” Blank said. “I’m just in a zone and I just wanted this so bad for my team, so I was just talking to myself, ‘just get them in, just get them in' the best that I could. I was just doing what I usually do.”
The Sailors, who rallied from two sets down to beat top-seeded Notre Dame Prep in the semifinals, put a scare into the Gators in the second set.
The Gators watched a 24-20 lead dwindle to 24-23 after an ace from Hren and kills from Annie Tavera and Taylor Swenski and strong defensive work from setter Lynn Walsh.
But, the Gators won the final point on a kill from Pivec and they cruised to victory in the third set.
The title was especially sweet for the Gators, who had to overcome the loss of top hitter Jillian Randolph to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
“It was so great, especially to end our senior season like this because when Julian tore her ACL. a lot of people didn’t think we would make it this far,” Blank said. “It’s so amazing to be here right now.”
“They wanted it so bad and they have been working for five or six years to get to this point, but I couldn’t be more proud of my girls,” Wilkinson added.