The start of senior night at Catonsville High for volleyball was delayed because of small puddle in the middle of the main court, but that didn’t bother the seniors and their Comet teammates from moving to a side court and putting together a flawless and clean performance in a 25-10, 25-14, 25-17 win over Franklin.
“Despite not being able to play on our whole court, the energy was just there,” said senior middle hitter Brooke Nelson, who contributed three kills and strong play at the net.
The four other seniors, honored before the game, included middle Maddi McLean, outside hitters Sylvia Johnson and Sophi Wrisk and defensive whiz Don’ya Truesdale and they all contributed mightily.
Johnson (12 kills) and Wrisk (nine kills) took advantage of strong passing from Truesdale and Devyn Tracey and the setting of Maddi Sampson.
When Sampson wanted to go inside and run a quick attack, she fed McLean (six kills) and Nelson (three kills).
“Franklin is normally a scrappy team, but I felt like tonight we did a great job of running our offense and moving our feet on defense because they were sending a lot of the balls over and luckily we were getting to all those balls and getting them up,” Catonsville coach Tonya Feaster said.
The first set was tied at 5-5 before McLean’s kill and block bumped the lead to 7-5.
After Franklin made it 7-6, the Comets (8-4) reeled off seven straight points with sophomore Lyssie Mitchell on the service line.
She had two aces during that run and continued a flawless run of serving.
After the Comets missed their first serve of the match, they connected on 42 straight successful serves.
“That (serving) is something that we really work on during practice, being aggressive during all of those games and making sure that we are being as aggressive as possible, so that it is difficult for the other team to return the ball,” Feaster said. “When they are returning it, they are returning on free balls that we can capitalize on.”
Leading 16-10, the Comets won a side out and Johnson closed the set with 10 consecutive pinpoint serves, that included four of her game-high six aces.
Catonsville was a perfect 23-for-23 in the second set and finished 64 of 68 overall.
Wrisk and Johnson had four kills each in the second set and Mitchell had two of her three kills in the set.
“We definitely just focused a lot more on those open spots and we played a lot smarter then we did (against Western Tech) and we played more as a team and that really makes a huge difference,” said Wrisk, whose squad lost to Western Tech last Friday in three sets after losing 30-28 in the first set.
Franklin’s Leilani Calhoun had five her team-high seven kills in the second set, but the Comets pulled away after a 3-3 tie with seven straight points with Nelson on the service line.
She attributed the dominant stretches to better communication.
“Our main focus is communication and I feel like we communicated a lot more then we usually do, mostly because we had energy,” Nelson said.
Johnson had six kills in the final set and McLean added four.
Seniors Nelson and Wrisk talked about playing together on the home court for the final time.
“During the game, I really didn’t think of it as my last home game here,” Nelson said. “When everyone was talking about it beforehand, that was when I felt it the most.”
Wrisk knew the finality of the night before it happened.
“All the seniors cried on the way here,” said Wrisk, who will play lacrosse at the University of Maryland next year. “It was a very emotional time, it just really hits you when you are a senior and it’s your last game because I won’t be with these girls anymore and I won’t be playing volleyball anymore after a couple more games.”
Feaster is definitely going to miss the veterans.
“These are my babies, I’ve coached four out of the five of them since their sophomore year and just seeing them progress over the last three years has just been amazing,” she said. “They all do a great job, they are always in their positions, they are always leading the team, so it’s going to be sad seeing them go this year, but I’m excited to see what they can do as the end of the season approaches.”
There are nine underclassmen on the roster who have blended in nicely with the seniors.
“This team this year has been amazing,” Feaster said. “I love working with every one of these girls. They do a great job. They are all fiery and I think they bring that out onto the court.”