It took five sets and a little less than two hours for the Bel Air boys volleyball team to secure another championship.
A week removed from winning the Harford County regular-season title with a win over Patterson Mill, the Bobcats beat those same Huskies for the Harford County tournament title Tuesday at Bel Air High School.
The Bobcats won sets one and three, 25-20 and 25-11, while the Huskies won sets two and four, 25-22 and 25-21. The Bobcats won the fifth set surprisingly easy, 15-5.
“It was a team effort, we’ve been working all year,” the Bobcats’ Sam Johnson said. “We put everything we have into this game to make sure we could accomplish our goal and become champions, once again, in Harford County.”
The Bobcats led 7-3 in the first set on a pair of Chris Couch kills. At 10-4, Patterson Mill coach Rich Moyer called a timeout. Kajus Derby added a kill and the Bobcats’ lead was 12-5.
The lead quickly grew to 23-15, but before the Bobcats could lock up the win, Patterson Mill closed to within four, 24-20.
Cole Burkhardt’s kill had the Huskies and Bobcats even at 4 early in the second set, but Couch, who dominated with 21 kills, put the Bobcats ahead, 9-8, with a kill.
“It feels great, just being able to be exposed to the student section and having everyone cheering me on and just get sets and get kills is really fun,” said Couch, a 6-foot-6 sophomore.
Patterson Mill slid back ahead, 12-9, but the match was tied again at 16. The Huskies pulled away with three points to lead 19-16, and Bel Air wasn’t able to get any closer than two as the Huskies finished off the set.
The Huskies seemed to ride the momentum into set three, jumping to a 6-3 lead, but the Bobcats roared back with four straight points to lead 7-6.
Kills from Couch and Johnson pushed the Bobcats to a 12-7 lead and the advantage grew from there. Derby’s kill made it 14-8 and the Huskies’ last grasp cut the deficit to four, 14-10.
Unfortunately, the Huskies had just one more point in them and Bel Air scored 11 of the next 12 points to take the set.
At 8-4 in the fourth set, Bel Air looked as if it might finish the match with a 3-1 win. But Patterson Mill wasn’t going down without a fight. The Huskies, down 9-4, rallied to tie the set at 9.
The set was also tied at 10 before the Huskies went ahead for good, 13-12. The lead grew to 20-15 and then 22-16, bringing two timeouts from Bobcats coach Larry Tsomos.
Timeouts only delayed the inevitable as the Huskies closed out the set to force the deciding fifth set.
Before the set, Tsomos took his team out of the gym. “I wanted to wake them up, I felt like we kind of started dipping,” Tsomos said. “I wanted to wake them up a little. Out there is us again, a family. We are a family.”
Upon returning to the gym, the Bobcats were clearly energized. With Johnson serving and Couch adding three kills, Bel Air raced to a 5-0 start before the Huskies called timeout.
The Huskies scored the next two points and the teams’ traded points as the Bobcats took a 6-3 lead. Ian Irizarry (two aces, one kill, two blocks) served the Bobcats to a 10-3 lead and the Huskies called another timeout.
Patterson Mill did snap the Irizarry run, but seconds later, Couch hit an ace to deliver the Bobcats to match point.
The Huskies saw the match end with Johnson putting down his 11th and final kill.
“I did not expect this at the beginning of the season, I did not,” Tsomos said. “I’m grateful to these guys, they deserve it.”
Jonathan Drumm finished with a kill, two blocks and 38 assists and Zach Rey had three blocks, one ace and three kills for Bel Air.
“What I think this really shows is the growing of our program and the maturity of theirs,” Moyer said. “Bel Air has been here before, Patterson Mill has never been here. I’m extremely proud of what they’ve been able to do, they’ve never gotten this far.”
Will Pape and Burkhardt rallied 10 and 15 kills, respectfully, while Adam Lingelbach threw in another nine for the Huskies. Between the three, they also established a stalwart defense of 18 blocks and seven digs.
John Carroll 3, St. Paul’s 1
The Patriots bounced back from a pair of losses to beat the visiting Crusaders Tuesday in Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference play. Set scores were 25-15, 24-26, 25-21 and 25-10.
Travis Smith (12 kills)); Alex Mink (six kills); and Matt Archibald (seven kills) led the Patriots.
John Carroll 3, Boys’ Latin 0
The Patriots (12-7) also beat the visiting Lakers in MIAA conference play Wednesday.
Set scores were 25-23, 25-17 and 25-22.