Hereford junior Maggie May had a match-high 18 kills in the Bulls volleyball showdown at Dulaney High on Tuesday, but it was her softest one that was the most important.
The two-handed tip over the Lions’ two-player block gave the Bulls a 17-15 win in the fifth set, earning them a 25-21, 15-25, 25-10, 17-25, 17-15 triumph over the Lions (3-1).
Neither team enjoyed prosperity as nobody won consecutive sets.
“I thought it was one of those things where they made one more mistake than we did, and we made one more play than they did,” said Hereford coach Dave Schreiner, whose squad earned its fourth straight win after opening the season with a loss to Winters Mill.
Dulaney dropped to 3-1 after sweeping its first three matches.
The key to the game was serving.
Dulaney amassed 23 aces while Hereford produced 18, but the Lions missed crucial serves in the final set.
“Both teams served well,” Dulaney coach Cary Lyon said. “We were giving them good serves.”
The Lions were led in serving by sophomore Elise Erny (7 aces), Jalyne Swann (5), Kathryn Parler (4) and Julia Whatley (3).
Hereford’s McKenna May had all four of her team-high four aces in the first set.
Heather Collins had four aces and Erica Hilse had three in the match.
McKenna May set the tone in the first set when she followed her own kill for the first point with three straight serves that were not returned and the Bulls built a 4-0 lead.
Dulaney rallied to take a 6-5 lead, thanks to two aces by Erny and a kill from Swann.
The set was eventually tied at 14-14 when Hereford went on 9-0 run to cement the set.
Setter Hilse started the run with a block and Maggie May had two kills and McKenzie May had three aces during the streak.
Dulaney pulled away in the second set, after it was tied 9-9.
Erny scored three of five straight points on aces and the Lions led 14-9 on the way to a 25-15 decision.
“Emotionally, our mental toughness kind of went away in that second game,” Schreiner said. “I had to remind the kids, ‘You’ve got to be mentally tough out here and there was a point in that second game that went away and we got that back.’ We changed a few things in the next game and came back and won.”
They won the third set convincingly, 25-10, thanks to five kills from Maggie May, after not having any in the second set, and one each from McKenna May and Shelby Jones.
Like Hereford, Dulaney bounced back and cruised to a 25-17 victory in the fourth set.
Dulaney spread the scoring in the fourth set with Swann getting three kills and Aja Irving, Nancy Slaughter, Parler and Mackensie Weller all getting one kill.
“We have moments of greatness and moments where we just fall short of the expectations that we know we can do and we just sometimes fall short of that, but in the end we all fought hard and we wanted it,” said junior setter Parler about the Lions rally in the fourth game.
In the final set, Dulaney capitalized on an ace from Parler to take a 4-1 lead.
“I usually try and do a short serve, but I tried to be more aggressive because it works better,” Parler said.
Hereford tied it 4-4 after one of four missed Dulaney serves in the final set was followed by a hard-driven kill and tip by Maggie May.
The teams stayed with two points of each other the rest of the set.
The Lions did get to match point with a 14-12 lead and Weller on the service line, but setter Hilse won the side out with a clutch second-ball dump, making it 14-13.
An serve-receive error off a serve by Collins tied it at 14-14 and her ace made it 15-14.
The Lions tied the score at 15-15 following a missed Hereford serve.
The Lions returned the favor with a service error and the Bulls led 16-15, and Maggie May tipped over the game winner after Hilse’s clean serve.
“It hurts to lose a match on that point,” Lyon said.
Despite the loss, Lyon is upbeat as the Lions try to improve on the 2016 10-6 season that ended by them being swept by Catonsville in the regional semifinals.
“I love this team,” Lyon said. “I love every kid on this team.”
Schreiner is equally optimistic about the Bulls.
“That [Dulaney] is a good volleyball team and that’s a confidence-builder, because both teams had to work for what the results were,” Schreiner said. “We had to work really hard in order to come out of here with a win and I thought we played pretty good volleyball.”