Last season, Arundel walked in to the State semifinals at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum and stared at the lights and the crowd. The Wildcats were in awe, and they played like it, losing to Montgomery County's Sherwood.
What a difference a year makes.
The top-ranked Wildcats (18-0) took a 19-1 lead in the first game against Prince Georges County's Bowie (17-1) and never looked back in a 25-5, 25-11, 25-12 win in a matchup of two undefeated teams.
Arundel will get to face Sherwood again, this time in Saturday's 5 p.m. Class 4A State Championship. The Warriors defeated Richard Montgomery in the other semifinal.
"We were really excited to get back here," said Wildcats coach Ashley Yuscavage. "All year, our thoughts were 'how can we get back?' Now we've done that."
Arundel played with poise and confidence this time, using seven straight service points by senior Lindsey Tapley (two kills, four digs, 14 assists) to take an 8-0 lead. After a tap over the net by the Bulldogs' Yaje Ngundam (two kills, six digs) scored Bowie's first point, the Wildcats went on another 11-point serving run by Cassie Miller (three aces, two digs) to take the 19-1 lead. They coasted to a 25-5 victory in the first set.
The second set was much the same, with Lindsay and twin sister Ashlyn Tapley (five kills, two aces, three digs) controlling the net, with help from junior Ashlee Felton (five kills). Arundel scored 11 of the first 14 points to take an 11-4 lead and cruise to a 25-11 win.
The third set, with liberal substitution by Yuscavage, featured four aces en route to a 25-12 win.
Arundel, which has lost two sets all year (one to Broadneck and one to Howard County champion River Hill), says it will be much more prepared to face the Sherwood, the Class 4A defending state champions.
"We came in ready for anything today, and we played our game," Lindsey Tapley said. "We've been working towards [a rematch with Sherwood] all season. Last year we played as separate people instead of as a team. We are playing much more together now. "
Miller, a senior, says the Wildcats have gotten better since last year.
"We run a faster offense now," Miller said. "We are playing well, and I'm sure we'll be ready in the championship game."
In the other semifinal, Sherwood needed four sets to fight off a pesky Richard Montgomery 25-15, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17. The Rockets are the only team to win a set off of Sherwood this year, winning one in the regular season and one in the semifinal.
Alex Holston, who has committed to play volleyball at Florida next season, led the Warriors with 27 kills
Richard Montgomery had the defending champions on the ropes in the third set, but was outscored 5-0 down the stretch after tying the match at 20-20.
(at Richie Coliseum, College Park)
Arundel d Bowie 25-5, 25-11, 25-12
Sherwood d Rich. Montgomery 25-16, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun