Atholton volleyball earns rematch with Centennial

Atholton volleyball coach Dave Decker said that he wanted his team to dictate the pace in Monday night’s 3A East regional quarterfinal match at Mt. Hebron. With their dominant defense, the Vikings can take advantage of teams that lose patience.

And in the first set, the Raiders kept Mt. Hebron’s defense out of the equation for the most part. Unfortunately for them, it was by committing 14 errors.

“I told the girls that we want to control the tempo the entire match,” said Decker, whose team missed nine serves in the first set. “We didn't really want to control it that way.”

After that, though, Atholton calmed down and came back to defeat Mt. Hebron (10-5) in five sets, 19-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-25, 15-10.

The Raiders (12-4) now advance to play undefeated Centennial — a 3-1 winner over Reservoir on Monday — in the regional semifinals on Wednesday.

Atholton is now 3-1 in five-set matches this season, with the only loss coming to Mt. Hebron in September.

“We do well in fifth sets. We know how to come out strong and keep ourselves on top, keep our nerves on the inside and just stay calm on the outside,” said senior McKay Evans, who finished with a match-high 13 kills to go along with two blocks. “We knew what we could do, and we just stayed strong the whole time ... we're ready to keep going.”

Atholton also got solid contributions from Taylor Combs (8 kills, 3 blocks), Natalie Alper (8 kills) and Laura Yawney (7 kills).

The Vikings were led by Emme Petti, with 11 kills and two aces, along with Ravyn Richardson (8 kills) and Marissa Duncan (5 kills, 4 aces, 2 blocks), and the defensive play of juniors Meg Ross and Mallory Baldwin.

“All the seniors played wonderfully today and our defense was strong as always, Mallory was amazing,” Ross said. “We just had a really good year and we couldn't have done it without our seniors.”

Mt. Hebron wasn’t able to take a set from Centennial in two meetings this season, but Ross and her teammates were looking forward to getting another crack at the 14-time state champions.

“We were going to practice tomorrow, but it's OK,” Ross said. “Howard County is the strongest county in Maryland, any team in the top five in Howard County could be in states.”

The Vikings were missing perhaps their best player in senior captain Erin Walter, who rolled her ankle at the Thomas Johnson tournament in mid-September and hasn’t been able to shake the injury since then.

“I feel for my seniors to go out like that,” coach Michael Moynihan said. “When the passes were there and the sets were there, Atholton couldn't stop us, we just bounced the ball off the floor ... it was both teams fighting hard. We had the lead we just couldn't hold them at the end.”

Last year, Atholton ended a 49-match league winning streak by Centennial. But the Eagles have won the last two meetings between the two teams, including a three-set sweep in September.

On the other side of the 3A East bracket, River Hill hosted Stephen Decatur and Howard traveled to J.M. Bennett on Monday, but those results are not yet available.

In the 2A South region, second-seeded Glenelg defeated Lackey, and will now host third-seeded Patuxent on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Top-seeded Calvert swept visiting Long Reach out of the quarterfinal round on Monday.

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