Glenelg senior Maddie Myers discusses the Gladiatiors' 3-1 win against Atholton on Sept. 12, 2019.
Glenelg left little doubt that, in order to win the Howard County championship in 2019, it’s the new team to beat.
Facing defending county and 3A state champions Atholton at home Thursday, the Gladiators never backed down beat the Raiders in four sets — 25-18, 25-13, 19-25, 25-20 — to hand them their first loss since 2017 and first county defeat since Oct. 25, 2016.
“For us, it was big knowing that we felt they were probably the top team in the county for us to worry about,” said Glenelg coach Jason Monjes.
The Gladiators (1-0 Howard County, 1-1 overall) lost just two matches last year on their way to reaching the 2A state championship, and one was a sweep at the hands of a dominant Atholton team. There was obvious motivation from Monjes’ leaders to get revenge and be the team to end the Raiders’ run of dominance. Atholton (0-1, 1-1) lost as many sets (3) Thursday night as it did all of 2018, and it was clear the first few points that Glenelg was ready for the moment.
“The first part of that match, especially the first few sets, I thought we dominated the first touch. Our serve and pass were really on,” Monjes said. “I felt that we attacked them well with our serve and were a lot more consistent than when we played on Tuesday.”
Senior outside Maddie Myers did it all, tallying 13 kills and 20 digs to go with a pair of aces on back-to-back points in the fourth set to create some separation. Junior middle blocker Gracen Alsheimer went toe-to-toe with Georgetown commit Chanelle Smith, finishing with six blocks, while libero Alyssa Kelly (15 digs) and outside hitter Haley Rumsey (8 kills, 14 digs) played key roles for the Gladiators.
“What can I say about Haley. We’re not going to win these really strong matches with just Maddie Myers alone,” Monjes said. “Haley really contributed. Fourteen digs from a girl we were never even expecting to play all the way around. That’s been really complimentary for our team because then it opens up the middle.”
A sluggish start gave way to crisp all-around play for Glenelg and it showed on the scoreboard. It never trailed in the first set and used a 6-1 run to take a 16-9 advantage en route to an easy 25-18 win. It was the first set Atholton had lost to a county opponent since Nov. 6, 2017.
The second set was much of the same, only their big run came earlier. Alsheimer and Myers combined for four kills and a block in the span of nine points, which was more than enough to pull away with the aid of consistent serving from Anne Hintz, who toed the service line for five straight points and left it with her team leading 13-4.
The Raiders, however, wouldn’t quit. They took their first lead in any set early in the third but needed a late rally to avoid the sweep. Ryan Rorls (6 kills) served six straight times and Atholton won seven consecutive points, turning a 17-15 deficit into a 22-17 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.
“We knew they were going to come back,” Monjes said. “They’re too good of a team to give up too many of those errors.”
But this was Glenelg’s day. It got back on track in the fourth set, winning four of the first five points, and never let up. Myers, who shows her emotions on her sleeve, pounded down two kills and had two aces in a five-point span that made it 13-7, and the Raiders never got closer than three points the rest of the way and saw their 20-match winning streak come to a sudden end.
“They wanted it more than we did,” Atholton coach Larry Schofield said. “I keep telling them, you’ve got to hate losing more than you love winning, and it didn’t seem to bother them that much, while you saw them, they were out for blood the whole way. We just could not get anything going in system.”
Monjes agreed. He said his team continually forced Atholton to make mistakes when Smith, an All-County player last year who managed just seven kills and a block, came out of the game.
“It really caught them off guard,” Monjes said. “I mean, when you’re missing your best middle and you’re relying on your best outside, it becomes really predictable. Once you become predictable, it’s easy for the team to defend and play you well, and I thought the first two sets we really put them out of system.”