Western Tech’s volleyball team was overpowered, 25-11, 25-11, 25-11, by Smithsburg on Wednesday in the Class 1A state semifinals.
Smithsburg (19-2) is seeking the school’s 13th state title and eighth in the past nine years, but Western Tech (15-4) made quite the impression on the Leopards.
“They were fired up from the beginning,” Smithsburg coach Rachel Brashear said. “You had to appreciate their energy and the effort they put forth tonight.”
Smithsburg will play Perryville for the state title on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum.
Western Tech was pumped up early enough to win the first point of each set, but Smithsburg controlled the rest of the sets and the match.
After Western Tech’s Beatrice Daudelin served the first point and watched the ball fall out of bounds on a missed return, the Wolverines led 1-0.
But, Smithsburg’s junior setter Katie McCracken toed the line and fired off nine straight service winners for a 9-1 lead as the Leopards rolled to a 25-11 victory.
“She [McCracken] is a good server,” Western Tech senior Emily Badin said. “She has a really good float and it would move and go everywhere.”
Western Tech coach Eric Jett also praised McCracken, who finished with a match-high 10 aces and a match-high 23 assists.
“She did an amazing job because we had no idea if it was in or out,” Jett said. “It was very, very hard to figure out. It got us on our heels, got us playing the ball from the side. She was tough.”
Brashear added: “When Katie gets a nice run like that it kind of takes the pressure off.”
Trailing 11-3 in the first set, Western Tech showed some grit when Carley Boarman (team-high seven digs) made a tough dig of a hard serve by Hannah Lund that led to a point after a solo block by Rachael Durham.
In the second set, McCracken had five service winners, following McKenna Clevenger’s six straight service winners, after the Wolverines had tied it at 6.
“I just play every point in my head, one point at a time, and I try to get in their heads, just make them guess what is coming next,” McCracken said.
There was no guessing what the Smithsburg hitters were doing when they got in attack mode.
McCracken fed senior Lauren Daniels (10 kills) or juniors Sydney Scott or Hannan Lund (six kills each).
“There comes a point where teams are going to hit at you and if you get it great and if you don’t get the next one,” Badin said.
Western Tech was more unpredictable in the hitting department.
“They attacked from the back row well tonight,” Brashear said.
Western Tech’s 5-foot-4 senior Imari Cooper led the Wolverines with four kills and Daudelin, Boarman and Emily Badin had two each.
But in the final set, it was aggressive serving that closed out the match as the Leopards had eight of their 20 aces.
Western Tech finished with four aces, led by Durham’s pair.
Despite Smithsburg’s serving dominance, Brashear was impressed with the Wolverines. “Hats off to them, they had great energy and they hustled and they scrapped and they should be very proud of their performance tonight,” she said.
Jett, in his 17th year as coach, will never forget this squad.
“This is one of my favorite teams to work with ever,” he said.
PERRYVILLE 3, DOUGLASS (P.G.) 0: The Panthers’ seventh straight trip to the Class 1A tournament resulted in a fifth state final appearance. Perryville (17-4) easily defeated Douglass, of Prince George’s County, 25-4, 25-7, 25-15.
The victory gives the Panthers another crack at Smithsburg. The Leopards have beaten the Panthers in all four previous state finals.
“Tonight, I thought we played really well, we were very efficient with our serving and our hitting and that’s something we’ve been working on a lot at practice the last week,” Panthers coach Matt Borrelli said.
Senior Hailey Jones had 14 aces and six digs for the Panthers.
— Randall L. McRoberts,
Baltimore Sun Media Group