In the opening match of the season for both girls volleyball teams Tuesday night, Perry Hall rallied for a four-set victory over host Catonsville, 17-25, 25-19, 25-17, 26-24.
The Gators got strong setting from Kiley Kurcoba, defense from Jamie Gray and Kayla Trogdon and hitting from Rhiannon Smoot-Mercer (six kills), Kurcoba (six kills), Trogdon (five kills), Aliana Rios (five kills), Ciara Bockstie (four kills) and Adrielle Jackson (three kills).
Catonsville was led by the setting of senior Maddy Sampson, the passing of senior Devyn Tracy and the hitting of Lyssie Mitchell (eight kills), Kyleigh Grieve (seven kills), Leah Vacine (four kills) and Alli Ungenfelter (four kills).
In the first set, the Comets led 13-12 when they went on a 4-1 run sparked by a kill from Riley Nelson. Sade Yancey also had an ace during the surge. They closed by winning seven of the final 10 points and ended it with an ace by Mitchell.
Perry Hall rebounded in the second set by winning the first six points. Kurcoba had two aces and Gray and Rios had kills to put the Gators out in front.
The Comets didn’t go quietly. After trailing 15-7, they came back within one, 16-15, thanks to four straight points with Sampson on the service line, three kills by Mitchell and a tip from Yancey.
Catonsville trailed 19-18 after an ace from Grieve, but the only kill of the night by Perry Hall’s Lia Ward made it 20-18 and the Comets never got closer the rest of the set.
Catonsville led the third set 12-11 when the Gators reeled off seven straight points, including an ace from Kurcoba, a block by Trogdon and a kill from Smoot-Mercer.
Kurcoba attributed the turnaround in the second and third sets to moving the ball around.
“It was definitely we were finding the open spots on the other team and I think we were communicating a lot better too,” she said. “We were finding those open spots and attacking them.”
“I think our biggest issue in that game was defense. They sent a lot of balls to the 10-foot line and we were not moving our feet on defense,” Catonsville coach Tonya Feaster said. “When we were running our offense we were very successful, it was just getting the ball to the setter in order to do that.”
The final set was the tightest and it included four kills from Smoot-Mercer and three aces from Catonsville’s Mitchell. The Comets took a 24-23 lead after a missed serve, but the Gators earned a side out to make it 24-24.
A tip by Perry Hall’s Rios and a hitting error ended the match.
“We were expecting to look a little rusty, but they are a great group of girls and they get along really well which helps with a supportive team effort,” Perry Hall coach Tricia Panageotou said. “It always has been a tight team and that support gets you through the pressure even when you are down.”
Kurcoba was pleased with the way the Gators turned the serving around after missing seven in the first set.
“Our serves were a lot more consistent, which was great and the energy was there with the team,” she said. “It’s awesome, the girls are so great, we have a really good team spirit and bonding which is really good.”
After graduating five senior starters from last year, Feaster is just anxious to see how her Catonsville team develops.