On senior day at Western Tech, the eight veterans danced before match, shared a walk across the court with family and imitated football wide receivers keeping both feet in bounds when catching balls retrieved by coach Eric Jett during the game.
Those are the little memories they will always have from senior day — and the fact that they defeated visiting Perry Hall, 25-16, 25-22, 26-24.
Jett is in his 19th season as head coach and his toughest decision on senior day was who to play.
Traditionally, a coach in any sport will honor his seniors by starting them all on senior day.
Jett’s problem was he had eight seniors on the roster and only six are allowed to start.
Those seniors he had to chose from included: Sheri Adewumi, Kaiya Fox, Favor Ujoatung, Rachael Durham, Anisah Weaver, Avaion Barry, Beatrice Daudelin and Keiran Ray.
Manager Fatima N’daye was also honored.
Daudelin has been on varsity since her freshman year and she has played with Durham and Barry for the past three seasons.
During that span, the Wolverines are 44-8, including a 12-2 mark this season.
As juniors in 2018, the Wolverines went 17-3, posting the school’s best record ever and making its first appearance in the state finals.
As sophomores, the Wolverines were 15-4 and lost in the state semifinals.
This year’s squad is gearing towards its third straight regional title.
The only losses this season came against Hereford and Dulaney. Those schools played for the Baltimore County championship earlier this week with the Bulls winning in four sets.
Western Tech won’t see the Bulls or Lions in the regional tournament because the Wolverines play in the Class 1A. Hereford plays in 3A and Dulaney is in 4A.
Against Class 4A Perry Hall, Western Tech rode the strong setting of Daudelin (22 assists), timely middle hitting from Durham (six kills) and Adewumi (five kills) and outside hitting from Ray, Weaver (four kills each) and Barry (three kills).
The two teams combined to miss 37 serves in the match with Perry Hall missing 19, including eight in the first set and nine in the final set.
Western Tech missed six in the first, five in the second and seven in the third, but they overcame that.
“We were trying to go for our serves, try new things and we just dropped the ball a little,” Durham said.
Barry didn’t drop anything but dimes in the second set after earning a side out with a back row kill to give the Wolverines a 21-20 lead.
She delivered back-to-back aces with the first ball perfectly-placed in the deep opposite corner and the second floating to rest just over the net down the line.
“When it comes down to like those game-point serves I feel like at that point you just need to focus on trying to pressure your team to get that lead back, even if it’s the end of the game, don’t play like it’s the end of the game,” Barry said.
A kill by Western Tech’s Durham and missed serve by Perry Hall ended the pivotal set.
Jett called a time out after his own team missed a serve to allow the Gators to tie it at 20-20.
“We just settled them down a little bit and gave them a breather,” said Jett, noting Barry’s back row kill was one of several that changed the match.
“Avaion hit so well out of the back row, she got us a lot of points, because they were not ready for us to hit on those balls and that goes under-rated because that either ended runs by them or starting one by us,” Jett said.
Perry Hall had taken an 8-2 lead early in the third set thanks to kills from Cici Bockstie and Aliana Rios, a kill and ace from Paulina Hernandez and solid passing from Ellie Buckheit.
Perry Hall had the lead much later in the final set.
Trailing 22-21, Hernandez took the service line and sandwiched two aces around a Western Tech hitting error, giving the Gators a 24-22 lead.
Western Tech got the side out after a missed serve and Adewumi finished an overpass with a kill to tie it at 24-24.
A hitting error was followed by a tip over a double block by Adewumi that sealed the victory.
“Sheri was double-blocked there on that last play and she went up there and she tipped it over top, so a very headsy play on her part,” Jett said.
After the match, some of the seniors talked about their memories.
“The seniors we have are something different because even when my seniors were leaving the years before it was fun, but it didn’t feel the same way as it does now that I’m a senior and all of my friends are seniors and all the bonds that I’ve made with these girls through the years,” Durham said. “We have so many memories together, so many good times, so many bad times.”
One of those memorable times was a three-set sweep of Catonsville when the Wolverines won the first set, 30-28.
“That Catonsville game that we played, everybody was just on their best behavior. It was so phenomenal to see how we all came together,” Durham said. “Even when we were down and they had set point, we still found a way to keep it together and motivate each other the whole time, it was so good for our energy. It was so heart-warming to see us stay positive the whole time.”
Daudelin knew when things went south, the team would recover.
“We know went we get low, we just kind of figure it out, we figure out what is wrong and we just come out of it and get a kill,” she said.
The pre-game ceremony was admittedly tough.
“When Jett was giving his speech, I like teared up a little bit and when I saw my other teammates crying, it was like, ‘Dang, it’s like real now, but we still have playoffs to look forward to,’” she said.
Barry was practically speechless as she tried to eat some cake after the match.
“There is really so much that I am going to remember and I’m going to miss, especially like the girls I played with, just playing volleyball,” she said.
Durham knew at all times the team could pick her up.
“I trust my teammates so much, I never feel that it’s all on me, I always feel like we are a team, so, if anybody makes a mistake, that’s fine, but I know that these girls will bring the heat,” Durham said. “If I fall short, they will pick me up, if they fall short, I will pick them up. We are a team.”
Jett couldn’t agree more.
Latest Baltimore County Sports
“This particular group bought into everything I’m preaching and it works for them,” he said. “They bought in to being a good teammate and if you are not having fun, then why are you doing it sort of philosophy and it’s something that definitely works for them.”