It looked like it was going to be a quick night for the Dulaney volleyball team Wednesday, as the Lions traveled to Catonsville (4-4) and completely dominated the first set.
But, after the visitors won the opener, 25-8, the Comets rallied and won the second set, 27-25.
The third set also went to the wire and Dulaney (5-3) prevailed, 28-26. The Lions then used that momentum to capture the fourth set as well, 25-14, and earn the 3-1 victory.
Dulaney junior Ally Reed had six of her match-high 16 kills in the final set, but admitted getting to the finish line was the hard part.
“She did pick us up in the fourth set,” Dulaney coach Cary Lyon said.
Reed knew she had to lead the way after the team had 12 hitting errors in the third set, before pulling ahead.
“I feel like I kind of had to bring up the energy,” Reed said. “I was getting angry that we were losing like that. It was frustrating.”
Dulaney was leading 27-26 in the third set when the final point turned into the longest rally of the night. Reed had a hard-driven spike that eventually led to the Comets returning a ball into the rafters for the set-ending point.
“When it’s long points like that, you kind of start reacting and go with whatever,” Reed said. “It’s kind of like instincts take over.”.
Abby Hochrein added eight kills and Riley Hodiste chipped in with six for the Lions.
Charley Vail had all 38 assists for the Lions and Caroline Lee (26 digs) and Erica Wang (18 digs) chipped in defensively.
The first set victory came so easily for the Lions and the next two provided a wake-up call.
“We definitely slow down a lot when other teams don’t have very much energy,” Reed said. “We slow down when we get ahead.”
Catonsville coach Amanda Kaufman was just happy to see her team pick up the pace.
“They battled, they fought and they came out ready to play in that second set,” Kaufman said. “The team that they really are wasn’t that team that played in the first set, so they just kind of had to snap out of it and I think having the serve to start off with really gained momentum and we were able to go from there.”
Riley Nelson was on the service line to start the second set and her three aces were sandwiched around Najae Batts and Lindsey Lutton (team-high five kills) kills and the Comets led 5-0.
“It (the Catonsville lead) was because of your serving,” said Dulaney coach Lyon to Nelson after the match.
Lyon coaches Nelson in the offseason on his club team.
“She aced us and that ball was fleeing,” he said.
“I recently kind of switched to the jump serve and only recently has it become more successful. Now I can kind of hit it and it floats,” Nelson said. “Once you get an ace you just want to keep on going and keep on serving that same person and kind of that same spot.”
Dulaney rallied from a 9-3 deficit and the second set was tied at 13 and tied or one point apart until it was 25-25.
With Nelson on the service line again, the Comets won the next two points on a hitting error and service receive error for the win.
The back row defense of Lauren Miller (team-high 20 digs) and net play from Sade Yancey, Kylie Grieve and Lutton also made a difference.
“We were able to move the offense around and our defense played a stellar game, kudos to their offense, but I thought defensively both teams played very well tonight,” Kaufman said.
Catonsville had a 19-13 lead in the third set when the Lions reeled off five straight points to pull within one.
Reed had three kills during the stretch.
The Comets led 24-23 with a chance to take the third set, but Dulaney tied it on a flat-footed back row kill by Wang.
A middle block by Miya Bowman put the Comets up 25-24, but Reed’s kill tied it again.
A kill from Grieve, off a pass from Miller and assist by Nelson, made it 26-25. But a tip by Chloe Broomell tied it at 26-all before the Lions won the final two points on a violation and long rally and followed with the win in the fourth set.
“We were talking in the huddle and we were like we have improved so much and we are just going to keep on improving because we just played Dulaney and we won a set and almost won a second set and that is kind of a unheard of for a long time because Dulaney has a history of being good,” Nelson said.
Kaufman echoed those sentiments.
“I think they are hitting their stride at the right time,” she said. “I would say total match-wise, offensively and defensively, it’s one of our better matches. We were starting to get touches on blocks and defensively with the net play, so it’s nice to see that all come together.”
Meanwhile, Dulaney’s Lyon lamented his team’s letdown after the strong start.
“We want to walk out of the building,” Lyon said. “Every time there was a side out we miss a serve or hit it into the bottom of the net if the set isn’t perfect.”
Assistant coach Dave Hochrein also knows the team has to play a complete game.
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“I said at one point during the changeover, we’ve got to build a good sandwich, where we play well in the middle of the match,” he said.