The Dulaney volleyball team played a solid all-around game in its sweep of Perry Hall in the Class 4A North Region I final Wednesday night, but it was the Lions’ aggressive serving in the first two sets that took center stage.
Highlight performances on the service line from junior Caroline Lee and senior Abbey Hochrein changed the momentum in each set, leading Dulaney (13-5) to a 25-19, 25-17, 26-24 victory over the Gators (9-5).
Dulaney, which seeking its fourth state championship after losing in the semifinals in 2019, will play in the quarterfinals Friday against an opponent to be determined.
Lee toed the service line with the Lions leading 21-19 in the first set and served out the final four points with three aces.
Hochrein was even better early in the second set. When she took over on the service line, the Lions trailed 5-2 after a kill for a side out by Julia Mendel. Hochrein proceeded to serve 10 straight winning points, including eight aces, and the Lions led 12-5. The Gators never got within four points the rest of the set.
“Honestly, I didn’t really have a plan,” Hochrein said. “I just went back there and was hoping I could help motivate my team and I didn’t want to do it alone, so I was happy to go in and keep the momentum going.”
Dulaney had 12 aces in the second set with Lee and Ally Reed each adding two.
“Dulaney has always been great with their serves,” Perry Hall coach Laurie Britton said. “They are going to serve hard and we trained for that and they got the better of us.”
Hochrein was just caught up in the moment.
“It was really exciting,” she said. “I was really nervous, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I was trying the floater as best as I could to the left side.”
Perry Hall nearly extended the match to a fourth set when it rallied from down 23-19 to take a 24-23 lead in the third set behind the serving of Lia Ward.
“She is our serving specialist this year,” Britton said. “She is there when we need her. When we played them the first time [a 3-1 loss], she had a concussion and she couldn’t play.”
Lee was helped during the comeback by a pair of kills from setter Kiley Kurcoba and one kill from Kiersten Chemelli, off a Kurcoba assist, that gave the Gators a 24-23 lead. Dulaney tied it on a kill by Chloe Broomell for a side out and took a 25-24 lead on a kill from Mendel.
With Lee on the service line, the Lions ended the match when the Gators committed a serve receive error.
“Our girls always push hard and they work hard and they always play until the end and that’s how they trained and that’s how we do it,” Britton said. “We make sure we are playing every point and make sure we are not giving up even if we are down a handful of points.”
The consistent play of Dulaney setter Charlie Vail (22 assists) was key in all three sets. When she wasn’t setting for Molly Steiner (team-high nine kills) or Hochrein (five kills), she was saving errant passes and keeping plays alive.
“They eventually made mistakes,” Dulaney coach Cary Lyon said. “Charlie even got a block and she was in the back row.”
“Charlie’s sets were amazing and our outside, Molly, she was crushing it,” Hochrein said. “Caroline and Erica [Wang] in the back row were doing their best perfectly. It’s all about picking each other up.”
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Lee was 21-for-24 in picking up digs and finished with six aces. Mendel and Broomell combined for five blocks in the final two sets.