While Glenelg senior Sarah Girard finished with 18 kills in the 3A state championship game Friday night, it was the chances that North Hagerstown negated with great defense that ultimately turned out to be the difference.
The Hubs had an answer to every Gladiator push. Whenever Glenelg rallied, it was a powerful kill from North Hagerstown senior Zoe Schreiber or a diving dig from libero Alexis McCarthy that kept Glenelg at arms’ length.
The Gladiators ultimately ran out of weapons, falling in straight sets to the Hubs, 25-15, 25-21, 25-21 in the 3A state title game at Richie Coliseum at the University of Maryland.
“I don’t think we were ready,” junior Rachael Girard said. “Being in the state finals ... a lot of the girls who were on JV last year didn’t experience such a high level of intensity, and coming out and playing this huge team ... I think (our) mindset was ‘Oh, we’re going to lose this one.’
“I think the pressure was too much for (us).”
The Gladiators (15-3) rallied in the last two sets to keep things close, and tied the second set at 21. But North Hagerstown (17-1) never flinched, closing out each game strong and thriving under the pressure.
“The big thing is keeping composure during those points, knowing what they’re doing, and not only paying attention to our side but their side and coming together as one as a team,” said Hubs senior Alexis McCarthy. “And that’s what helped us out tonight.”
Glenelg fell behind from the start, trailing the Hubs 9-3 in the first set. Although the Gladiators cut the lead to two, senior Zoe Schreiber was behind the service line for six straight points, leading the Hubs to a 10-point opening-set win.
Glenelg jumped ahead in the second set to lead 8-5 behind four kills from Sarah Girard. Girard and Schreiber battled back-and-forth throughout the set, but tied at 21, it was Schreiber who pounded two kills to close out the set.
Even with Sarah Girard having one of her best games, the Gladiators couldn’t find their groove against the Hubs dominant defense.
“We just couldn’t get on our strong runs to really push away,” Glenelg coach Jason Monjes said. “We’re usually good at getting on the runs and having teams chase us, but I almost felt like the game was always so close to the point where we were always kind of the ones chasing. For us it was kind of a little bit of a role reversal.”
The Gladiators battled back again late in the third set, but they couldn’t keep the ball away from Schreiber. She scored the final three points for the Hubs, all kills, to end the Gladiators’ season one match short of a state championship.
“They stayed more in system and we were out of system throughout the match,” said Monjes.
Offensively for North Hagerstown, kills came from all over the court. Schreiber and junior Jalia Bell combined for 37 kills.
“It was a collective team effort tonight. They were a good team, and put the ball down on us several times,” said Hubs coach Megan Crawford. “Once we were able to get the defense going, we were able to put the ball back down on them. I’m really happy with how (we) played.”
Sarah Girard finishes with 432 kills on the season, and was emotional at the thought of playing her last game with her sister Rachael.
“She’s my baby sister,” she said. “I’m just going to miss playing with her.”