Carver A&T coach Ralph Olson started the year with a simple goal for his volleyball team. He wanted seven wins. He had to revise his goals upward twice during the year, but it was the 14th win that eluded the Wildcats. That would have been a state championship.
The Wildcats (13-6) battled hard, but came up short of Olson's latest goal, bowing to Allegany County's Fort Hill 25-12, 25-23, 25-12 in the Class 1A state volleyball championship game at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
"I am so proud of these ladies and their effort," Olson said. "We fought a very hard fight and we just came up a little short. We put everything we had out there on the court."
Carver looked frazzled by the pressure early on, dropping the first set 25-12 in a lopsided manner.
The Wildcats rebounded nicely in the second set. Carver had a lead through most of the early part of the set, using an ace by freshman Sandra Lavrenov and kills by Kylia Jackson (6 kills) and Shannon Herlihy (5 kills) to take a 7-4 lead. Even after the Sentinels tied the match at 10-10, Carver stood its ground and traded points.
Carver actually took a brief 23-22 lead before the Sentinels got a key kill by Bailey Godlove (5 kills) to score the final three points and take the set, 25-23.
The third set was all Fort Hill, which finishes the season undefeated (18-0). The Sentinels took a 7-1 lead and never looked back, coasting to a 25-12 win.
"We've come a long way as a team," said Herlihy, a senior. "When I started playing as a freshman, we actually declined to play in the regional playoffs. To see where it's come in four years is pretty remarkable.
Reaching the state girls final is a first for the Baltimore County high school. Jackson said that something to be extremely proud of.
"It was an amazing experience," Jackson said. "If we would have cleaned up our passing a little, we may have won the second set. Still, I appreciated every moment we've had here.
For Fort Hill, the title was also a first for the volleyball team. Fort Hill coach Joe Brewer aid it wasn't really about what Carver did, but more about what his team did, that won the title.
"I didn't really see them [in the semifinals]," Brewer said. "We went in thinking it was more about what we did than what they did that would win us the match. We had some rough spots in the second set, but we got it done."