The Aegis

Bel Air girls volleyball gives Aberdeen rude welcome to the UCBAC Chesapeake Division with 3-0 victory

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Aberdeen girls volleyball sharpened its pencil and found its assigned seat. When the first whistle blew, it was time for the Eagles to take their first test since being promoted from the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference’s lower Susquehanna Division to the top level Chesapeake Division. And the first question on that test was a doozy, a road trip to face Bel Air, the reigning upper division champs.

For Aberdeen coach Jimmia McCluskey, it’s exactly the kind of match you want to open your conference season. The visiting Eagles gave themselves a barometer for growth despite falling to the Bobcats in three sets, 25-17, 25-13, 25-11.


“Honestly, we were a lot more controlled as far as what I expected,” McCluskey said. “We had some mess-ups just like any team would but they’re things we can fix by the time we see them again. I wish it was a little closer in sets but ... none of us really know this caliber consistently. I love the fact that we moved up because it makes us play at a different level, it makes us feel those harder hits and see those tips.”

Bel Air (1-0, 1-0) wins elongated rallies. Bel Air capitalizes on 50-50 balls. Bel Air can calmly manage chaos. Those are all traits that Aberdeen (1-1, 0-1), with a largely new group in a tougher division, is looking to grow toward.


The Eagles finished last season without a blemish on their regular season record (12-0), cruising to a Class 3A North Region II semifinal against the Bobcats. Bel Air won that match, 3-1, but as McCluskey pointed out, many of her current starters occupied the end of the bench in that loss.

Bel Air didn’t open the match looking like 3A state quarterfinalists. Coach Dave Simon chalked it up to the ancillary factors that accompany playing the first match of the season. After a fairly close first set followed by Aberdeen showing signs of life to open the second, the momentum tilted all at once.

One particular back-and-forth rally featured Bobcats junior outside hitter Annalise Lewis barreling into the official’s stand to save a ball that later assisted a kill and gave the Bobcats a 15-10 advantage in the second set.

“We have something that we call the Bobcat code, that’s five tenants of belief that we have,” Simon said. “I don’t know if we fully believe them yet but we’re working on them. One of them talks about effort and never giving up. We’re hoping as they continue to recite it before every game that it will start to reflect in our actions as well.”

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From that laborious point, a 10-3 run closed out the second set and Bel Air’s dominance spilled into the third. So much so that the onlooking Bobcats football team began an “Olé, Olé, Olé” chant as if they were in attendance for a South American World Cup match.

Lewis finished with two digs and six kills, trailing only the ferocity of senior outside hitter Kayden Hardenbrook’s eight kills. Sophomore libero Emma Duvall led all Bobcats in digs with five. Senior setter Tia Pegler added four to go with her 24 assists.

“We had a slow start but I’m glad we got that out of the way,” Simon said. “I like our team. There’s a lot of depth and a lot of hitters that we can go to. We don’t have to just keep setting to one person. Once we start clicking, we should be well balanced and tough to stop.”

Bel Air teammates celebrate a point against Aberdeen during a volleyball match at Bel Air High School on Thursday, September 7, 2023.

One of McCluskey’s players approached her postgame to let her know how proud she was to even see so much court time compared to the last time they played the conference powerhouse.


“I would rather take what I got today now at the beginning and adjust it before we see them again,” McCluskey said. “And be a little more prepared and give them more of a fight.”

The third-year coach pointed specifically to her back row and communication along with some specific rotations around the middle. But as she noted, those are mistakes that can be adjusted in practice as the season progresses.

Thursday night featured two teams coming back from successful years, although starting at dissimilar points. They’ll square off again midway through the season on Oct. 3 — a notable milestone game particularly for Aberdeen’s growth.

Aberdeen's Hannah Weer gets set to serve to Bel Air during Thursday's match.