All season long, the Marriotts Ridge volleyball team has proven its ability to battle back against tough competition.
Coming into Thursday's 2A state semifinal match against Oakdale, the Mustangs had played in four five-set matches, including back-to-back wins over Wilde Lake and Reservoir after trailing two sets to none to end the regular season.
In Thursday's 25-9, 36-34, 25-21 loss to Oakdale at Ritchie Coliseum, though, the Mustangs' best comeback efforts weren't enough.
"As always, my team goes out there and fights for every point, fights until the end and never gives up," said Marriotts Ridge coach Amanda Olsen, whose team also went to states in 2009 and 2010.
After being blown away in the first set, Marriotts Ridge (12-6) responded by building a commanding 22-16 second set lead. The Bears (17-2) steadily worked their way back, though, eventually earning a pivotal win on a kill by junior Abbie Harry.
"It's tough to be on the losing end of that. It’s like when you lose the point at the end of a really long rally. It's a little deflating," Olsen said. "But we've come back from being down 0-2 multiple times this season, so I don't think it rattled us that much."
The close second set may have actually given the Mustangs some confidence.
"It was pretty awesome that we could battle back so hard after we had kind of given them the first set," junior Grace McCoy said. "We have this saying before every playoff game that 'we love practice' and that motivates us to keep going."
While Marriotts Ridge came out fighting in the third set, at one point taking a 20-19 lead on back-to-back kills by senior Mikaila Fitzpatrick, the Oakdale stranglehold proved to be too much, and the match ended with a 5-1 Bears run.
Senior Liz Twilley, who has committed to play for Maryland next year, and Harry formed a devastating offensive combination for the Bears.
Oakdale, which opened in 2010, will play for its first state championship on Monday evening.
"Five years ago this school didn't exist, and it feels pretty special to go to a state finals now," Bears coach Jim Dorsch said. "My first year we had freshmen and sophomores, and many of them had not played volleyball before. I was teaching the very basics."
Twilley, who is 6'2" and plays club volleyball with Metro American, has 1,100 kills in her career at Oakdale.
"Liz came along as a freshman four years ago and we've made a significant improvement each year that she's been part of the program, and then the rest of these guys joined in," Dorsch said.