Volleyball: Owls' season ends in 3A final loss to Northern-Calvert

Megan Woodward
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Westminster senior Sarah O’Donnell said there was never a thought Westminster’s volleyball team would close out the season playing for a state championship.

Yet the Owls made it there Saturday at University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum, playing in the Class 3A final. The run ended there, however, when the Owls were defeated by Northern-Calvert in straight sets, 25-18, 26-24, 26-24.

It was the Patriots’ 14th appearance in the championship game and an 11th championship. Despite the loss, the Owls held their heads high.

“We really looked for each other to push each other and we know that not one person can succeed without the other,” junior Emily Bartlett said. “We really focused this season on being there for one another and bringing each other up and in those tough times we’re able to keep it going.”

A handful of Westminster mistakes allowed the Patriots to pick up an 8-3 lead in the third frame, but the Owls responded to score the next five points.

Sophomore Jilienne Widener led the Owls (17-2) with 15 kills and teammate Emily Bartlett had 27 assists.

The Patriots (18-1) maintained a powerful lead over the Owls in the first set and used a 5-0 run to pick up an 18-9 advantage, eventually taking the set.

The pressure was only just building.

The Owls scored the first point of the second set but wouldn’t find a lead again until a dominant performance from O’Donnell put the Owls up 16-15 — the outside hitter had 10 kills on the night. The Patriots built a four-point lead, but a pair of service errors kept the Owls in the mix.

Three kills from Widener helped keep the Owls within two and they scored three straight points to tie it up, 24-24, but the Patriots came away with the second straight set.

“A couple of those time outs I called tonight were just for them to take a breath and understand the gravity of the moment and that we’ve been here plenty of times in moments like those over the last three years together,” Patriots coach Bobby Gibbons said. “We talk about not getting to high, not getting too low, trying to stay even right in the middle and it’s tough because that was a great atmosphere tonight and our fans were unbelievable, their fans were great.”

A kill from Widener brought the Owls up 20-19, their first lead of the set. Another kill from Widener tied the teams at 24-24, but Patriots junior Leah Haynes nailed the match point to secure the state championship victory.

Northern-Calvert’s team dog-piled one another on the court as soon as Haynes’ ball hit the floor and the crowd burst into cheers. Amanda Chew had a match-high 23 kills and Jenna Jaeger had 32 assists, also a match high.

“They definitely had some strong net play in the first set,” Owls coach Ed Benish said. “I think they were stronger there than the second and third, but their middles played well and a good middle attack is really helpful to have. We definitely could have gotten our middles going but we look to our strongest hitters to take care of business when it has to happen. Hats off to them, they’re a good team. It’s not like we were playing somebody that hadn’t proven themselves as well. They deserved to be here just like we did.”

mwoodward@carrollcountytimes.com

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