xml:space="preserve">

Frustration isn’t a word Westminster’s volleyball team has associated with in recent years, with Carroll County championships and regional trophies and state tournament appearances in tow.

Ritchie Coliseum, site of the state tourney, hasn’t been a harbinger of good times for the Owls, however. They played in a state final two years ago and lost, and followed that up with a setback in the semifinals in 2018. Thursday night, Westminster made its return to Ritchie in the Class 3A semifinals to face Northern, the team that clipped the Owls in the 2017 title match.

Advertisement

Once again, the Patriots ended Westminster’s season short of its goal. And the frustration set in.

Jilienne Widener sported a brace on her left knee and wasn’t quite herself toward the end of the Owls’ 26-24, 23-25, 25-11, 25-20 loss.

Westminster teammates holds hands and swing their arms as they stand for the national anthem against before a 3A semifinal match against Northern-Calvert during the MPSSAA State Volleyball Tournament at University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum on Thursday, November 14.
Westminster teammates holds hands and swing their arms as they stand for the national anthem against before a 3A semifinal match against Northern-Calvert during the MPSSAA State Volleyball Tournament at University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum on Thursday, November 14. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Westminster’s 6-foot senior hitter said she injured it last week and played through the pain, but her ability to elevate waned a bit in the third and fourth sets. Northern (20-0) capitalized, led by hitters Allie Droneberger and Allie Timbario.

Droneberger, a junior, tallied a match-high 20 kills. Timbario added 15, and sealed the match with a kill late in the fourth set.

Widener collected 16 kills to lead the Owls (17-1), and her teammates did their best to fill in at times. But it wasn’t enough to fend off Northern, which is one win away from its 11th state championship.

“I was having some knee trouble,” Widener said. “I went down in the second set, and it just was not getting better. I definitely couldn’t do what I normally could do, and that’s so frustrating.”

Added first-year coach Evan Frock: “You guys didn’t see Jilienne Widener at her true power today.”

Westminster's Ella Keck (11) and Cassi Shields (15) try to block a kill attempt by Northern-Calvert's Allie Timbario, left, in a 3A semifinal match during the MPSSAA State Volleyball Tournament at University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum on Thursday, November 14.
Westminster's Ella Keck (11) and Cassi Shields (15) try to block a kill attempt by Northern-Calvert's Allie Timbario, left, in a 3A semifinal match during the MPSSAA State Volleyball Tournament at University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum on Thursday, November 14. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Owls junior hitter Sabina Rinda had nine kills and fellow junior Emily Riesner added seven, while sophomore middle Cassi Shields posted five kills.

Shields landed a kill during the second set that gave Westminster a 17-11 lead, which it extended to 21-14 moments later. The Patriots didn’t go away, however, and pushed the score to 24-23 before Widener ended the set with a solid strike.

Northern turned things around in the third set and raced to a 13-6 lead. Droneberger’s fifth kill of the set gave the Pats a 16-7 lead, and they rolled from there.

Westminster fell behind 20-9 in the decisive set, and Northern closed out the match by scoring the final five points.

“I love my team,” Frock said. “These girls are amazing every day. They come to the gym every day and work their butts off, and make each other better. And you can see they care about the sport so much.”

The Knights (16-2) advance to the Class 2A state final Nov. 16 at Ritchie Coliseum.

Westminster dealt with some serving errors and miscommunication at times, and when the Owls found their rhythm their scoring runs were halted by a nimble Northern defense.

Droneberger had 16 kills and junior libero Mackenzie Detoto had a team-high 17 for the Patriots. Kasey Thomas, Westminster’s senior libero, countered with 14 digs and Widener chipped in with 12.

Advertisement

Westminster senior setter Emily Stauder had 16 assists and junior Alexis Troy posted 18.

Westminster came into the state semifinals with three sets lost all season, but Frock said the Owls knew what to expect in facing Northern. Last year they came to Ritchie Coliseum in similar fashion to take on unbeaten Atholton in the semifinal, and the Raiders prevailed before winning a state crown.

“We ran into a great Northern team,” Frock said of the Patriots, who move onto Saturday night’s 3A state final. “Credit to them, they came in and beat us. We were prepared, but both teams were [undefeated] and one team had to go home 17-1.”

Westminster graduates only four seniors from this year’s squad, but the Owls are losing a four-year standout — and one of the top hitters in the state — in Widener, who finishes her high school career with 1,311 kills. Stauder, Thomas, and fellow defender Sarah Anderson will join Widener as soon-to-be Owls alums.

Thomas said Westminster played with more intensity this fall, driven to capture its first state championship. That drive will have wait a little longer.

“It was like, this could be our year," Stauder said. “Pushing each other in practice ... putting in all of that work. It was fun, it was a good last year.”

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement