Between the Class 4A state semifinal victory over High Point last Wednesday and the sweep of Severna Park in the state championship match on Saturday, Dulaney High coach Cary Lyon had his team scrimmage the coaches.
It was during that scrimmage when the coach, in his 10th year at the school, realized the Lions serving was back, after a subpar showing in an easy sweep of High Point.
It was that aggressive serving that kept Severna Park from running its offense the way it wanted and spearheaded the Lions’ 26-24, 25-22, 25-20 triumph at Ritchie Coliseum on the University of Maryland, College Park campus.
The triumph completed a perfect 21-0 season and was the school’s first volleyball title since they won the second of back-to-back state titles in 2000.
“Some of the coaches scrimmaged them and they were acing my butt,” Lyon said. “Man, our serves were on. Our girls were on and so was our energy. I was confident coming in.”
He realized they picked up the serving pace about a third of the way into the first set.
While Severna Park was missing six serves in the opening set, the Lions were mixing it up with strong serving from Milan Amos, who had two aces when the Lions erased an 8-6 deficit.
“I’ve never seen a team yet that serves better than ours and I don’t mean that in a boastful way,” said Lyon, who watched the first set end on an ace by Mallory Svoboda.
“I mean our girls stepped it up and they are confident when they get up there," he said. 'They had had some errors but I’ll take that all day.”
The Falcons like to run quick sets to the middle and they rarely tried it all day and were only successful on one.
“We ran two or three quicks the entire match and that is kind of not our game and it boiled down to passing,” Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar said. “We got the ball up, we just didn’t get the ball where we wanted it to be.”
Meanwhile, the Lions were showing their versatility with strong passing from libero Melaney Nicholls (12 digs) and hitters Mallory Svododa (8 digs), Darla Svoboda (7 digs) and Amos (7 digs).
When the passing was slightly askew, senior setter Alexis Howatt (29 assists) was there to put the ball in the right place.
“I think we practiced it a lot yesterday, squaring my hips so wherever the pass was put, I was getting that ball squared to where I was setting it,” Howatt said. “That practice really helped.”
Her final assist to Amos in the first set was a little off, so the junior adjusted and tipped it for a winner and 25-24 lead.
“I know my coach told me there were holes in the middle and I knew the set was a little in, so instead of swinging and probably getting blocked, I decided to tip and obviously that worked for me,” Amos said.
In the second set, The Falcons cut a 22-19 lead to 22-21 on a tip by Lauren Kirchenheiter (8 kills) and double block from Sophie Hoekstra (11 kills) and Mary Smith, but the Lions responding with a pair of clutch kills from Darla Svoboda, who led the Lions with 16 kills.
Amos had 11 kills and Mallory Svoboda added five.
Dulaney trailed 7-4 in the third set, but rallied behind the aggressive serving of Amos (4 aces) to take a 9-7 lead.
They also got points on blocks from C.C. Ukejianya and Erin Briggs.
Darla Svoboda had six kills in the final set, but all she could think of after the match was how she finally reached her goal.
“It’s probably the happiest day of my entire life,” she said. “My goal sophomore year was to win states, goal junior year was win states and senior year win states, and that’s all I ever wanted and it just feels like a dream come true.”
“They are a great bunch of kids and they have been a joy to coach,” added Lyon.