Led by senior captain Morgan Perry (23 kills, 16 digs), Glenelg (14-2) battled back from a 2-0 deficit at Mt. Hebron (14-4) to win the 3A East regional championship — 23-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23, 15-10 — and a trip to Tuesday's state semifinals at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
Sarah Girard added 11 kills and 28 digs, while sophomore Rachael Girard set 41 assists.
The Gladiators got off to a slow start Friday, trailing 24-20 in the first set before falling 25-23, and falling behind 16-6 in the second set.
"We made a lot of unforced errors and were very hesitant and that's not the way we play," Glenelg coach Jason Monjes said. "Finally we got rid of that nervousness, because basically you're at the point where you either play to win or you're dead."
It was Glenelg's third five-set match in the last two weeks, and fourth of the season. The Gladiators split five-set matches with county champion Howard this season.
"After the second set I told them you've been in five-set matches, you know if we gut it out one-on-one against any team and keep it close we have a fighting shot," Monjes said.
The Gladiators came to life in the third set, racing to a 10-6 lead, but the resilient Vikings rallied to go back ahead 16-13. Glenelg refused to die though, going on an 11-2 run to take control.
"We pulled it together when it counted and fought hard ... I'm proud of us," said Glenelg senior middle Molly Calvert, who combined with fellow middle Lauren Wright for another 14 kills. "We just had to pull down deep and find it in ourselves to believe in ourselves and know that we had it."
Mt. Hebron refused to relinquish the momentum, though, building a 17-14 fourth set lead. But after a Glenelg time out, the Gladiators went on an 8-2 run to pull away. The Vikings fought back to tie it at 22-all, but back-to-back kills by Calvert and Sarah Girard put the pressure on Mt. Hebron, and Perry came through with the kill to send it to a fifth set.
The Gladiators then took an early 6-4 lead in the fifth set and never looked back, pulling away on a Kristen Thesing four-point service run highlighted by a pair of aces.
Back-to-back kills by Perry and Wright finally put the match away.
"It's my senior year and we've been working on this forever and it feels great, I'm just really happy that we had the chance to do this and move on to see what we can do," Calvert said.
Mt. Hebron was led at the net by Ravyn and Reeana Richardson and Marissa Duncan, and defensively by Meg Ross and Mallory Baldwin.
"I feel so bad for the seniors because they played so well and it was such a great year," Mt. Hebron coach Michael Moynihan said. "We got beat, they played better than us. We didn't play poorly, we played really well."