College Park--For the fifth time in the past seven years, the Perryville girls volleyball team played for the Class 1A state title Saturday evening at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
Unfortunately, for the Panthers (15-4), the fifth time didn’t go any better than the previous four against state power Smithsburg.
The Leopards dealt the Panthers another 3-0 loss to send the Panthers back home as a state runner-up. The scores were 25-11, 25-18 and 25-22.
The Panthers struggled with the Leopards power serves and the big hits at the net early on and although the Panthers adjusted some, the Leopards were just, too, tough.
“We practiced serving everyday for two hours, we were just off. There isn’t really an explanation for the way that we passed or the way that we played we were just off tonight,” senior Hailey Jones said. “I know that’s not an excuse for losing, but our team just didn’t play its full potential tonight and sometimes it just happens.”
Oddly enough the Panthers were ahead 2-1 in all three sets, but it was only in the third they led later than that.
In set one, the Smithsburg lead jumped to 7-3 and at 9-4, Perryville coach Matt Borrelli called timeout.
Out of the break, Chloe Huntsberry served the Leopards to a 13-4 lead.
Rebecca Holman’s block cut the deficit to 18-10, but Smithsburg added two more points to lead 20-10 and force another Perryville timeout.
The Leopards finished off the set a short time after.
The Panthers trailed 4-3 in set two and in a matter of minutes, the Smithsburg lead was 11-4 and Borrelli called another timeout.
The Smithsburg lead was 15-7 when Brooke Reynolds made a kill to ignite a brief Perryville run. The Panthers had the lead down to six, 20-14, but the Leopards scored the next three points (two kills by Sydney Scott) to lead 23-14. Scott finished with 13 kills and eight digs.
A Lauryn Daniels (10 kills, six digs) kill gave the Leopards a 24th point, but the Panthers had another rally to get to 18 points, before set point was scored.
“It seemed like in the first two sets, especially the first set and half, they were dropping their serves in short and we were struggling to get the ball because they were short,” coach Borrelli said. “The second half of the second set and the rest of the game, they were really serving it deep on us, so they really did a good job mixing up their serving.”
In set three the Panthers played a lot better and stayed right in the set. An ace by Alex Leslie gave Perryville an 8-7 lead.
The Panthers also led 11-10 and on a Leslie kill, retied the game at 14.
Holman’s tip kill pushed the Panthers ahead, 15-14, prompting Smithsburg head coach Rachel Brashear to call timeout. Holman led the Panthers with six kills and three blocks.
“With their hitting, it was just hard to get out there and block,” Holman, a junior said. “They were just so quick on their toes, we just couldn’t get out there and get quick enough. But we played our best.”
The Leopards responded and took an 18-16 lead, forcing Borrelli to call his own timeout.
The Panthers rallied as well, tying the game 20-20 on another Leslie ace.
Another Daniels kill pushed the Leopards back ahead, 22-20, and Borrelli called one, last timeout.
It was Daniels, the senior and the Leopard’s first four-time state champion, who drove home the match point.
With the win, Leopards coach Brashear tied the former Centennial coach Michael Bossom for most state titles won. This was Brashear’s eighth state title won.
“We came out with a lot of fire and intensity tonight, we were ready to play,” Brashear said. “We hustled on defense, we got some nice balls up, we controlled the tempo with good serve receiving and I was just overall proud of the energy and how they (Smithsburg) stayed in it, whether we were on a high or we were on a low.”
Reach Randy McRoberts on twitter. @aegissports