It’s hard to top the best record in school history, but the Western Tech volleyball team is ready for the challenge.

The Wolverines return nine seniors from last year’s 17-3 squad that posted the elite mark and reached the state finals for the first time ever. They lost in the Class 1A state championship match to Clear Spring.

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“I think that there is an understanding that the school we played in the finals was significantly better than us,” Western Tech coach Eric Jett said. “There is an understanding that we need to change our game this year if we expect to get past them.”

The senior veterans who will see most of the court time include defensive specialist Jazmyne Carr, middle blocker Rachael Durham, outside hitter/setter Avaion Barry, outside hitter Anisah Weaver, middle blocker Sheri Adewumi, setter Beatrice Daudelin, outside hitter Keiran Ray and middle blocker Kaiya Fox.

Freshman outside hitter Imani Ward will see some action in the rotation while Ray recovers from a sore back.

“The big difference is experience and a lot of it,” Jett said. “They have seen everything.”

Carr and Adewumi are the only ones who haven’t played club. Daudelin played club until this past summer when she stopped to focus on lacrosse.

Last year, in the Class 1A state semifinal victory over Lackey, Daudelin served the first nine points to give the Wolverines a 9-0 lead. She finished the match with seven service aces and 24 assists.

Durham led the team with 12 kills in that four-set triumph. She plays club volleyball for the Baltimore Elite, and thinks the team’s positivity is one of its strengths.

“Everybody enjoys what we do here, so it doesn’t become anything that feels like ‘Oh, I have to go play volleyball, it’s I want to go play volleyball.’ After a long day of obligations that I have coming my way my senior year, volleyball is where I get to go have fun,” Durham said.

Jett made sure the Wolverines were ready to compete from the start as he scheduled pre-season scrimmages with McDonogh, Mount de Sales and Linganore.

Mount de Sales won the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title the past two years.

“They can bang the ball and they exposed some of our weaknesses in our blocking and our defense, simply because we don’t get to face teams that run that crisp of an offense very often,” Jett said. “They gave us something to work on and it was nice to have them in. They are local and we never get to play them and I think we provided a nice challenge for them as well.”

Last year’s state tournament appearance was the third for the Wolverines — they lost in the state semifinals in 2017 and 2011, but it also earned them a promotion in Baltimore County.

“We moved up to Division I this year,” said Jett, noting they played in Division II in previous years.

The Baltimore County championship matches up only the top two teams in Division I.

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“We would not be able to play for it,” Jett said. “They are looking forward to it this year. I’m happy that they moved us up.”

Hereford outlasted Dulaney in five sets last year for the county title and Western Tech lost to both squads.

This season, the Wolverines play at Dulaney on Wednesday, Sept. 18 and they host Hereford on Sept. 25.

Two of the Wolverines victories over Division I foes last year came against Towson and Catonsville. Western Tech hosts Towson on Oct. 4 and Catonsville on Oct. 11.

The Wolverines (2-0) opened the season with three-game sweeps of Woodlawn and Chesapeake and Barry is looking forward to facing the top teams.

“I know a lot of girls from those schools like Dulaney, Hereford and Towson and I feel like we will be able to play against people that we work together and we know how their skill is and they know how we play, so it (Dulaney game) is definitely going to be a very interesting game,” said Barry, who plays for the MVA club team.

Is Durham is equally excited for the Dulaney match?

“Yes, because I have so many friends from Dulaney, they all played for MVA and that is my old club team, familiar faces and the coach for Dulaney (Cary Lyon) is my old club coach, so it’s definitely family,” Durham said. “It feels good to just play them and see how we have all grown since we’ve split.”

Jett has seen his own girls grow on the court significantly and Barry is at the head of the class.

“Avaion is ridiculous. She is so good. Avaion is the best all-around player,” Jett said.

Her ability to set, along with Daudelin, gives the offense more options.

“We’ve got some hitters. Sheri and Rachael, they can hit,” Jett said. “Whether or not we can run the offense that we want to run from the middle is a different story, it’s been good, it’s going to be a work in progress. Anisah Weaver and Imani can also hit. We ought to be able to put pressure on teams.”

The rest of the squad includes senior outside hitter Favour Ujoatuong, junior middle blocker Laurin Brooks, sophomore setter Destiny Ward and sophomore defensive specialist Elizabeth Wilson.

Brooks, Ward and Wilson move up from the JV.

“We have our goals, goal number one, they want to challenge for the Baltimore County title, we think we deserve that,” Jett said. “We have not beaten Hereford and we have not beaten Dulaney, so we understand that it something we have to do first, but we are confident that we can challenge them.”

“Beyond that, they want to win a state title. Again, we are well aware that our game needs to change in addition to having that experience. We have some tricks up our sleeves this year. We will see how it goes.”

Durham and Barry know that means improving in every match.

“We just consistently pick each other up,” Durham said. “It’s okay, let’s move on to the next point and figure out how to make it better.”

“We all are going to keep each other calm. We are going to make our way there, it’s not any rush to really just win the states, we just want to get better all the time,” Barry said.

Jett will keep a keen eye on the team in every match.

“Our biggest challenge is that we are trying some new things this year and we are going to need months to get them into place,” Jett said.

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