The Arundel volleyball team looked every bit like one of the top teams in the Baltimore area and a 4A state title contender at Howard on Tuesday.
The defending 4A East regional champions played well in every aspect, using their big, athletic middles and crisp setting to sweep the defending Howard County champion Lions, 25-19, 28-26, 25-16, and improve to 3-0. Howard fell to 2-1.
It was a steady effort from Arundel, which hammered down 37 total kills compared to 21 from Howard. Senior outside hitter Chyna Gubbings had 10 kills through two sets and finished with 12 to go with four aces, while junior middle blocker Mackenzie Meehan dominated down the stretch to finish with 11 kills and four blocks. Senior outside hitter Taylor Wigglesworth did a little bit of everything, as she had six kills, three aces and a block.
Wildcats coach Ashley Yuscavage liked what she saw from her team, especially considering they played and beat Towson in straight sets the night before.
“I was excited to see us fix a lot of the problems we had last night, so that bodes well for the future,” she said. “I was concerned with the way we played. We talked about being more consistent with our serving and our passing. Our serving was not great tonight but our passing was better and our energy level was better.”
For the Lions, who lost in five sets to Arundel last year in one of its three defeats on the year and hadn’t been swept in straight sets since a 3-0 loss to Liberty on September 28, 2015, it was a disappointing result. Coach Grant Scott said his team played “timid and intimidated.”
“I’m surprised. We were fired up,” he said. “It’s a credit to them, they took us out of our game, which I’m glad they did so now I can use this as a coachable moment. It’s why I like these big games early in the season, to allow us to learn from this and hopefully progress.”
Howard took an early 4-2 lead but after Arundel tied the score at 5, it never looked back. The Wildcats pulled away with a 10-3 run behind two kills and an ace from Gubbings and two more kills from Wigglesworth.
The momentum continued into the second set for Arundel, which got off to a 5-1 lead thanks to two kills and an ace from Meehan, though they made just enough mistakes to allow the Lions to hang around. Howard pulled to within one seven different times but didn’t manage to tie or take a lead until it faced set point down 24-21.
Kills from Anna Jezerski (seven kills, one block), Christina Kundrat (four kills, one block) and Madison Paige (six kills, one ace) tied the score at 24 and the Lions won the following point with a chance to win the set, but Arundel had different plans. Gubbings’ sixth kill of the set tied the set at 25, and then Meehan helped close out Howard with a kill and a set-ending block.
“The Howard fans were going wild and I said to my team, they don’t know what you’re going to do with this ball,” Yuscavage said. “I was excited that they did something with that next ball. That’s really good to see, that they can stay the course.”
Arundel senior libero Nia Smith blew the third set wide open. She stepped behind the service line with a two-point lead and served the Wildcats to 10 consecutive points. Meehan had four kills in that stretch, while Wigglesworth had one and a block.
This was the first major test for Yuscavage’s senior-laden squad, and based on the dominating victory, she said her team has the potential to “go as far as they are willing to go.”
Arundel (3-0 overall) def. Howard (2-1) — 3-0 [25-19, 28-26, 25-16]