The sets were closer than during the matchup against Centennial earlier this spring, but Howard volleyball kept its perfect season in tact Wednesday with a sweep of the visiting Eagles in the Howard County tournament semifinals.
The Lions, who have yet to drop a set this season, won the first game 25-20 and the second 25-17 to advance into a championship matchup Thursday against Reservoir at 5:15 p.m. The Gators, who are also unbeaten at 9-0, defeated Marriotts Ridge 2-1 in the tournament’s other semifinal match.
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity,” Howard coach Allison Ose said. “This whole season we have taken the mindset of being grateful to simply have a chance to play, and the hard work the girls have put in has led us to this point. Now it’s exciting to try and put it all together and see how we match up against another great team.”
Howard (10-0) had won the opening set against Centennial (6-3) by a score of 25-9 when they played on March 17, but Ose knew this was going to be a much different Eagles team this time around.
Centennial indeed hung around throughout, sitting behind by just two points during most of the middle portion of the first set — including at 16-14 and 18-16. Howard needed some clutch plays at the end of long rallies to prevail.
“We knew that Centennial was going to come out with a lot of energy today, so the mindset we were preparing for was a fresh start. We tried not to think too much about the first match,” Ose said. “We worked a lot on ways to be a good defensive team to counter their offense.”
The second set was also close throughout. A quick 4-0 lead, however, created an advantage that the Lions never lost on the way to eventually securing the win.
Howard senior setter Jordan Redmiles registered her 1,000th career assist, finishing the night with 18. Junior Darien Garner had six kills, while sophomores Kelenna Onukwugha and Corinne Chau each tallied four kills. Kathy Taveras led the defense with 20 digs, while Tyller Williams had four blocks.
Centennial’s Mailinh Godschall paced the Eagles with three kills and eight digs.
The Gators advanced to the championship of the county tournament by overcoming a one-set deficit against the visiting Mustangs.
“It’s always a great match with Marriotts Ridge,” Reservoir coach Carole Ferrante said afterward. “Both teams are defensively driven and there are always great rallies.”
In the end, Reservoir (9-0) was able to prevail thanks to a team effort that included six players with multiple kills. Kayla Browne (eight kills), Kelsey Holmes (six kills) and Mayah Tucker (six kills) led the way offensively, while Jessica Rothermel (20 assists) and Gabby Allen (17 digs) spearheaded the team in other areas.
Marriotts Ridge (6-4) was led by Brenna O’Reilly (27 assists), Julia Mamo (13 digs) and Leah Liu (nine kills) in the loss.