The volleyball teams from Calvert Hall and Gilman might not be as strong as Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference powerhouse Loyola Blakefield, the winner of 38 consecutive matches.
Yet the Cardinals and Greyhounds still know how to stage an entertaining match, as they proved Thursday night during host Calvert Hall's exciting 26-24, 23-25, 25-20, 25-19 victory in a playoff semifinal.
The win advanced the Cardinals to Saturday's final (8 p.m.) at Boys' Latin, where they will meet the Loyola-Mount St. Joseph winner.
Cardinals' fans stormed the court and mobbed the Calvert Hall players after Russell Coulter's kill finished off Gilman.
"We probably played our best volleyball of the year," Calvert Hall coach Anthony Cammarata said. "We were down like three points in the third game. Once we came back and got it even, we felt there was no looking back from there."
Coulter, a senior outside hitter, totaled 30 kills and 13 digs. Senior setter Molelo Hadaway (61 assists), senior outside hitter Ben Deaver (14 kills) and senior middle hitter Chris Mafale (7 blocks, 4 blocks) also had standout performances for the winners.
Senior middle hitter Jack Hutchins and junior outside hitter Connor Poskoff led Gilman with 14 kiils each. Junior middle hitter Chris Kohler (10 kills) and junior setter Tyler Wakefield (23 assists) also shined for the Greyhounds.
Home court mattered in the series. Calvert Hall won twice in Towson and the Greyhounds prevailed in Roland Park last week.
Gilman could have made a statement in the first set on Thursday after taking a 20-18 advantage, but Calvert Hall closed on an 8-4 run as Mafale had three kills during that stretch.
In the second set, the Cardinals led, 20-16. Gilman, however, rallied behind the serving of Kohler and Elliott O'Brien to erase any thoughts of a Calvert Hall sweep.
The Cardinals led by as many as six points late in the third set and then withstood a Gilman comeback.
Calvert Hall was most impressive in the fourth set, but the Greyhounds didn't go quietly.
It was tied at 10-10 before the Cardinals won six of the next seven points to take control.
"We are a heart team," Gilman coach Neil Gabbey said. "We wear our heart on our sleeves and on the front of our jerseys. I can't question what my guys gave me. We knew it wasn't going to be like the match at our place a week ago, where we beat them, 3-1. But if a couple of balls had bounced our way in those first couple of games, we might have been up 2-0."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun