— The No. 11 Hereford girls volleyball team looked defeated, already trailing Patuxent 22-9 in the first set of Monday's Class 2A state volleyball semifinals.
The Baltimore County squad rallied, shaking off its passivity and rattling off an 11-point run. But it would only be a temporary relief. Hereford battled for the first set, stole the second, but ultimately fell in the third and fourth frames to lose 22-25, 25-21, 18-25, 26-28 at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
"The hardest thing is for the kids that this is their last game," Hereford coach David Schreiner said. "I think having the nucleus of kids we had, you come in here and think that this is our chance. I didn't want to just get here, but we did play well."
As Patuxent took the court for the fourth and deciding set, shouts of "We want it, we want it, we want it" broke through their huddle. Patuxent followed that mantra by leading 18-14, but Hereford rallied and drew even with a kill by senior Kelly Cavey.
"I've never been so nervous in my entire life," Cavey said of the Bulls' late push. "All of us, we were just covering the floor like we never have before."
Patuxent (15-3) extended its win streak to 13 matches.
In the third set, the Panthers raced ahead, leading 8-3 and then 15-8. The Bulls (17-3) had no answer for the surge, struggling to build momentum while mired in mistakes — a miscommunication that led to an untouched ball, a failed volley that should have been a strike, an uncontested attack which was swallowed by the net. With the lead at 19-9, Hereford called its second timeout of the set.
They were able to close the gap, but the lead proved to be too much.
In the second set, Hereford led 22-20 and took the frame after Patuxent went long on two shots and then netted a serve.
Hereford couldn't solve Patuxent's dominant senior in the middle, 5-foot-11 Madison Scott, in the first set.
After Scott disrupted the front line with two quick blocks in the first set, the Bulls tried lofting volleys over her outstretched arms. Those lobs only bought the Panthers more time to set up their strikes, which resulted in their early lead.
"They cover the floor well, you're not going to get a lot from lobs and tip ins," Schreiner said. "You've got to make them block it and I think we got more aggressive" as the game went on.