When Towson High’s Sara Mandreja got an early peak at the volleyball schedule, the senior was drawn to the date of Sept. 27 when the Generals were playing on the road at Dulaney High.
“It’s my favorite game,” Mandreja said. “They are so competitive and it makes me more competitive, so I look up for it.”
The memory of that Wednesday date with Towson and the match will be forever etched into her mind after Mandreja led the Generals (6-1) to a 25-22, 25-15, 27-25 sweep of Dulaney (4-2) with a match-high 15 kills.
She also led the Generals with nine service aces, including eight during the second set, after the score was tied, 10-10.
Mandreja was on the line for 11 straight points and had three aces in a row to start the run and four in a row to end it.
“My adrenaline was so high,” Mandreja said. “I was just, ‘I have to make this serve in and I have to make the next one,’ so it was really consistency.”
Tyanna Butler finished with seven kills and Logan Marsh had 24 assists and seven aces for the Generals.
Dulaney was led by Jalyne Swann (8 kills, 4 aces) and Aja Irving (3 kills, 2 aces), but too many serve-receive errors led to the Lions demise.
“We got aced 22 times,” Dulaney coach Cary Lyon said. “That’s seven points per set. We were just sitting there and letting them fall and they weren’t moving their feet. We work on it all the time, but we’ve got a lot more to work on.”
Towson coach Emily Berman had some advice for Mandreja after she missed two serves in the first set.
“After the first game, she missed a few serves and we talked about moving back a little bit and still being aggressive, but being a little smarter in her aggression and it worked,” Berman said. “She was able to keep the ball in play every single time and they were on their heels. They didn’t know where she was going to go, but I knew she wasn’t going to miss.”
Before she had the impressive service run in the second set, the Generals had to rally from a 14-6 deficit in the first set.
Dulaney built the lead with a pair of aces by Swann and kills from Mackensie Weller, Nancy Slaughter, Swann, Ashely Guetler and Kathryn Parler.
Trailing by eight, Mandreja started the comeback with a kill that got Butler to the service line.
The Generals won four straight points, cutting the lead to 14-11.
Butler had an ace and Mandreja added a tip and power spike during the rally.
After a tip by Lisa Liu for a side-out, Dulaney stemmed the tied with Erica Guo serving four consecutive points to give the Lions an 18-11 lead.
Mandreja’s block got Towson the serve back and Marsh was aggressive with her serves.
Marsh served eight winning points in a row, lacing three aces along the way, and Mandreja had three kills and the Generals led 20-18.
Dulaney tied the score at 20-20 after a missed serve and net violation, but Mandreja’s kill put the Generals up 21-20 and Mandreja stepped to the service line.
Her ace and a Dulaney hitting error gave the Generals a 23-20 lead, but a missed serve helped the Lions get back within two.
Irving’s ace cut it to 23-22, but Bria Kahert’s kill gave the Generals set point and Butler ended it with a tip.
In the third set, the match was tied 18-18 when Swann served a pair of aces and the Generals had a hitting error and the Lions led 21-18.
Dulaney eventually led 24-21, before Towson rallied to tie.
Marsh’s ace made it 25-24, but Irving’s kill tied it at 25-25.
Marsh assisted Mandreja for the side-out and a kill by Claire Beaudry ended the match.
“Against a good team like this, the key is forcing them to make errors, not being overly aggressive when you don’t need to be, and forcing them to a point of discomfort where they are forced to make errors,” Berman said.
The aggressive serving and willingness to go hard all the time has no boundaries for the Generals.
“Every time, she [coach Berman] always tells us, it doesn’t matter what they do, it’s what you guys do,” Mandreja said. “Even if the score is 25-25, you focus on yourself and what you are doing and work as a team and we win.”
Lyon’s Dulaney squad was coming off a 25-9, 25-12, 25-15 sweep of Perry Hall in a match they dominated from the service line.
“We served them off the court,” Lyon said.