Catonsville senior Mitra Harrison smiled through the disappointment after the host Comets lost to Sherwood in the Class 4A North Region championship match, 25-16, 25-4, 25-15, because she knew how far she and her classmates had come since they started playing as freshmen.
“Tonight was very disappointing, but, then again, this has been the best season I’ve had since I was on this team — four years and we’ve never gotten this far,” Harrison said. “The team totally came together the entire season. Everyone did their jobs.”
Catonsville (15-2) had its winning streak snapped at 13, while Sherwood (16-1) won its 15th straight match.
They will play in the Class 4A state semifinals against Arundel on Nov. 16 at the University of Maryland.
Sherwood was led by two players who will be on Division I college courts next season.
Senior hitter Kaiya Heyliger-Powell, who will play at East Carolina University, had a match-high 13 kills and four aces.
Senior setter Megan Wilson, who will play at the University of Virginia, had 26 assists.
“Megan is unbelievable,” Sherwood coach Jacob Achten said.
Madison Bliss (8 kills), Grace Aceto and Sarah Le (4 kills each) and Simonne McCants (3 kills) also contributed to the balanced offensive attack.
Catonsville was led offensively by Mitra Harrison (4 kills) and defensively by seniors Kateri Wess (10 digs), Amber Lally and Harrison (4 digs each).
Catonsville trailed 19-10 in the first set when senior Catherine Ott had two aces during a three-point run to cut the deficit to 19-13.
After Sherwood gained a side out and 20-14 advantage, the Comets rallied to make it 20-16 after a block by Jenna Wallace and ace from Harrison.
That’s when the comeback stopped as the Warriors reeled off five straight points to close the set.
“The first set it was a little shaky for a while, but they came back and they played hard,” Catonsville coach Amanda Kaufman said.
Sherwood’s Achten knew they couldn’t let up after building the lead.
“We had an unbelievable great match against Howard and we had a big comeback and we were determined to come in here and not let the same thing happen, play at a high level and be at a high level and they went out there and produced,” Achten said.
The Comets fell behind 14-4 in the second set and then Heyliger-Powell took the service line and reeled off 11 straight points for the 25-4 victory.
She had three aces during the servive run.
“I just felt like our team really needed it and we needed to go after it hard,” Heyliger-Powell said. ““It was no reason to let down. I felt like we had enough energy to go at it.”
The energy continued into the third set when an early block on the first point by Bliss led to an 8-1 advantage, keyed by the hitting strength of Heyliger-Powell, Bliss and Le.
Harrison’s kill was followed by her ace to make it 10-4, but the Comets never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
“They were a very, very good blocking team, so it was hard to put the ball away,” Kaufman said.
Catonsville was coming off a sweep of Dulaney in the sectional finals, its second sweep of the Lions this season.
That triumph and the best season in Kaufman’s 10 seasons as head coach was what made it easier for the Comets to smile and hug through the pain of the loss to Sherwood.
“The way they played as a group of seniors and the way they improved since they were freshmen, whether they were on jayvee or varsity, it’s nice to see how much they have grown and how well they play as a team,” Kaufman said.
Harrison mirrored her thoughts.
“We came out this year and we just played great as a team and it’s bittersweet, but then again I’m so satisfied with how the season has gone,” she said. “We knew this might be our last game so we tried to play our hearts out.”