COLUMBIA, MD — Wilde Lake volleyball coach Caitlin Williams' heart sunk when her star setter, junior Meghan Morales, crumpled to the court with an agonizing cry during a match at Marriotts Ridge on Oct. 21.
With her knee torn in several places, Morales' season ended at that moment.
"When she went down she emitted a scream and it was scary. It was an ugly fall and I just knew that it wasn't going to be good," said Williams, whose team went on to lose that match to Marriotts Ridge in five sets. "I was sad for the team and in that moment we just couldn't come back from that emotionally ... but they came back the next night against Centennial and they won that game for her."
With Morales cheering on the bench with a large brace on her surgically repaired knee, the Wildecats have continued to play for their fallen leader, most recently with an impressive 3-1 victory over visiting Reservoir in the 3A East Section II semifinals on Monday night after an 11-day hiatus.
"This is our last run. I wanted to wear my jersey again. We've been undefeated at home and we weren't going to let them beat us in our house," said senior Kelly Surkovich, who combined with sophomore Carmen Freeman to lead the offense with 20 kills each. "Now that it's single elimination, everyone is just going to prove what we have."
Sophomore Faith Leslie has stepped in for Morales, and came through with 30 assists in Monday night's win.
"Faith has risen to the occasion. She is such a hard worker," Williams said. "I told her, 'You've got to run the offense, and if you do that your hitters will fall into place.' And they did ... (Morales) has been here everyday working with Faith and mentoring her."
Reservoir (8-5 league, 9-6 overall) won the first set on Monday, 25-20, but Wilde Lake (9-4, 11-4) took control in the second set, and rolled through the next three, 25-17, 25-21, 25-14.
"In the first set we weren't pushing as hard as we could. So we just had to fight back," Freeman said. "We just fought really hard ... I felt like I needed to do something to contribute to the team, so in my head I said 'OK, you need to push.' "
The Wildecats advance to play at county champion Glenelg on Wednesday for the 3A East Section II championship. On the other side of the bracket, Mt. Hebron outlasted Centennial in five sets. The Vikings will play at Poly on Wednesday in the Section I final.
Reservoir senior Maddy Belt had 17 kills for the Gators in the loss, and finished with 280 this season. Junior libero Barbara Kelley had 20 digs and five aces, and sophomore Amaka Chuckwujekwu had four blocks for the Gators.
"We've beaten good teams," said Gators coach Jamie Bullock, whose team handed Glenelg its only two losses this season. "I know what's in us ... at first (Belt) gave me a hug and all she could say was 'I'm sorry' and there's nothing to be sorry about. She's a great player and I couldn't ask for anything more from her. It just wasn't our night."
Marriotts Ridge swept Hammond, 25-8, 25-18, 25-16, in a 2A South Section I semifinal. The Mustangs will now host Calvert on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Molly Meininger had 14 kills and five aces to lead the Mustangs, while setter Rachel Dubbs had 28 assists and four aces. Julia Kim led the defense with 10 digs.
Hammond was led by junior libero Catie Chervenak, with 21 digs, and junior middle hitter Lauryn Terry, with four solo blocks.
Howard swept Blake to return to the 4A North Section II championship. The Lions will visit top-seeded Sherwood on Wednesday at 6 p.m.