For Severna Park, the Anne Arundel County volleyball league was a battle. That battle experience paid off on Wednesday in the Class 4A state semifinals here at Ritchie Coliseum.
The No. 2 Falcons (17-2) out-hustled, out-scrapped, and out-played Montgomery County's Wootton, winning 25-10, 25-7, 25-20, to advance to Saturday's Class 4A state championship game at 2:30 p.m. They will face No. 1 Dulaney, a three-set winner in the other semifinal.
"We just got blasted off the court," said Wootton coach Mary Malinauskas. "They were great. We started off-balanced. When we tried to recover, they just kept on us. It was a disappointing end to a great season."
The Falcons used a noticeable height advantage and the power of right side hitter Sophie Hoekstra (9 kills), and outside hitters Kara Glynn (11 kills) and Lauren Kirchenheiter (13 kills) to dominate play. The Falcons excelled at the serving line, where at one point Glynn had four straight aces in the second set. Sophomore setter Morgan Kline contributed 28 assists to set up the offense.
"We came out ready to play," said Falcons coach Tim Dunbar. "They had a difficult time with our serve, and that kind of set the tone for the match. We really put them in a hole with our serving."
The Falcons had to win a region that contained area powers Arundel, Broadneck, and South River; all of whom are ranked in The Sun's top 10. Falcons players credited that experience with preparing them to play in the state tournament.
"Those teams are really good, and it's always so competitive," Hoekstra said. "We are used to hearing about Arundel and South River, but we pushed through them all to get here. We want to make the most of the opportunity."
Severna Park's best set was their second. Leading 3-1, Glynn served five consecutive winners — including four straight aces — to build an 8-1 lead. After Wootton (18-4) got a point on a Lauren Martin kill, the Falcons used two kills by Hoekstra and two by Kirchenheiter to go on a 7-0 run and gain a 15-2 lead. The Falcons then coasted to a 25-7 win.
Severna Park built an 11-4 lead in the final set before Dunbar put in some of his reserves.
The championship game will be the Falcons' first since 2001. Severna Park, which has five titles overall, has not won a state title since 1993.
Glynn credited an early-season loss to Broadneck as a turning point for the team.
"We didn't play well in that match," Glynn said. "We made a few changes and we haven't been the same since. We've continued to improve, and we're not the same team. That was a wakeup call for us."
Kirchenheiter said that, even as excited as the Falcons are, they aren't ready for the season to end.
"I know it will all end Saturday, but I'm not ready for that," she said. "I kind of wish is it could just go on forever."