The challenges keep lining up for River Hill.
Two days after a five-set victory over Crofton, River Hill went on the road to face reigning Class 2A state champion Glenelg. However, the No. 7 Hawks remained composed in the ladder stages of each set, defeating the No. 11 Gladiators, 25-17, 25-20, 25-20.
For River Hill setter Mackenzie Calhoun, the match brought a multitude of emotions. Calhoun was a member of the Gladiators last season and was the 2021 Howard County leader in kills as an outside hitter. Facing her old friends and teammates for the first time, Calhoun treated it as any other match.
“I think when I get into a game I lock into it,” Calhoun said. “I wasn’t really listening to the crowd or who I was playing. I just kept it simple and just played my game. That was just the mentality I had.”
When times got tough, River Hill (4-0, 3-0) played some of its best volleyball in the most critical points of the match, mostly at the service line. Brooke Laumann served three straight aces to break open a close first set before the Hawks closed it out.
“They’re starting to show composure when they get tight,” River Hill coach Lynn Paynter said. “We did it against Crofton and we did it again tonight, where we made four or five errors in a row, we were able to come back, pick back up and get back out in front of them because Glenelg was playing very well. It’s a huge rivalry between the two schools, so everybody’s anxious, everybody’s wound up. I am really proud of how the girls are keeping their cool, communicating with each other. I just see such growth that I haven’t seen in the last couple of years.”
The opening set was tightly contested early. Leading 21-17 late, Laumann galvanized the Hawks with her three aces to bring up set-point where the Hawks closed it out.
“I liked how we all picked a spot, knew where to go and had confidence knowing that we could do it,” Laumann said of the serving success.
, The second set followed a similar script, neither side able to build a substantial advantage early on. After trailing 9-6, Glenelg (4-1, 3-1) rallied to take a 17-15 lead, capitalizing on the Hawks’ errors.
River Hill immediately responded with six consecutive points, once again sparked by strong serving. Calhoun closed out the second game with an ace.
Looking to extend the match, Glenelg’s attack showed promise led by freshman Isard Bernandes. She finished with a team-high six kills, as Liesl Walter added to the Gladiators’ rally with multiple blocks in the third set.
Leading by one, River Hill once again pulled away down the stretch. The Hawks scored five straight points, pushing their lead to 22-16, closing out the match a few points later.
Thursday’s match completed a grueling 10-match stretch in nine days for the Gladiators.
“I think the takeaway from this match is you’re going to make your mistakes, it’s a matter of, can you limit the number of mistakes and can you get back into playing your style of play?” Glenelg coach Jason Monjes said. “River Hill played better than us tonight, they were much fresher, because I feel we can match their speed, but I just felt we were always a couple of steps behind.”