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Mt. Hebron volleyball beats Glenelg to win the Howard County championship

Mt. Hebron senior Sam Giles discusses the Vikings beating Glenelg to win the Howard County championship on Oct. 24, 2019.

Mt. Hebron could see the light at the end of the tunnel at some point midway through the fourth set at Glenelg on Thursday, and the Vikings didn’t shy away from it. Instead, they ran right at it.

Once they overcame an early 8-3 deficit and closed the stanza 10-4 run to down the Gladiators, they celebrated like Howard County champions should — with hugs and tears as the visiting fans chanted “county champions” over and over.

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“Once they find their groove and they realize they have every ability in the world to win it, they go all out and they take care of business,” said first-year Mt. Hebron coach Tina Catanach after beating Glenelg 25-20, 21-25, 25-18, 25-17. “And they did that tonight.”

The Vikings won their first league title since 2016 by finishing county play 10-1 to go with their 12-2 overall mark. Their head-to-head win against Marriotts Ridge, which also went 10-1 and beat Centennial on Thursday, was ultimately the difference for a team that few expected to be in this position.

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Howard County varsity scores and highlights from Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.

“I think this is a huge victory,” Catanach said. “No one really thought we were gonna do much of anything this season, and I think we surprised a lot of people. We proved what kind of team we are, and yeah, I'm so excited for playoffs and all that, but right now this is a huge victory for these girls, for the seniors, for me as my first year coaching. So we’re going to celebrate it.”

Glenelg (8-3, 9-5) didn’t go down easy. Neither team led by more than three points throughout most of the first set, and the Gladiators tied the score at 20 after kills by Sophia Salafia and Kate Laport.

Mt. Hebron, however, got hot at the perfect time. Morgan Amos, who led the Vikings with 14 kills, had two during a 5-0 run to finish off the set.

Glenelg came right back and took control in the second set. It never trailed and methodically built a 19-10 advantage thanks to a 5-0 run of its own. Though the Vikings battled back to cut the deficit to two, the Gladiators finished on a 3-1 run that included a pair of kills from senior Haley Rumsey.

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What Glenelg did in the second set is exactly what Mt. Hebron did in the third. It led the entire way and took command early with libero Lara Szabo-Banicz at the service line. She had two aces during a 7-0 run, and the Vikings never looked back.

Mt. Hebron lost the first two sets to River Hill on Wednesday but came back to win the final three to remain atop the Howard County standings on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019.

Catanach said she “got a little feisty with them” during a timeout down 8-3 in the fourth set, but her messages are always positive, Szabo-Banicz said.

“I just said, believe that you guys can do it and don’t be OK with anything less,” Catanach said, “and they went out there and proved that they deserve it.”

Julia Tallent and Brenna Siperko keyed the comeback. They combined for eight kills in the set, three of which came during a 4-0 run that followed the timeout, and they took the lead after a block by Zainab Bharmal.

Mt. Hebron wouldn’t trail again, and four combined kills from Tallent and Sara Paradisi during a 7-0 run that built its lead to 22-13 made the end result inevitable. Tallent’s seventh kill sparked the celebration.

“We were so motivated because we knew that we wanted this game more than anything and we knew that we were going to have to fight for it,” Szabo-Banicz said. “We didn’t want to take it for granted.”

Marriotts Ridge beat Reservoir in Fulton on Tuesday to keep its hopes of winning a county championship alive.

Glenelg coach Jason Monjes said his team got caught scoreboard watching, “and then all of a sudden, we were pressing.” Despite the loss, Monjes is confident his team has what it takes to make another run at the 2A state championship game, which they lost last year to Williamsport.

“We’re going to host the big playoff game Thursday night ... and our biggest thing is, we know there is a sense of urgency, we just got to be able to all play consistently and play together,” he said.

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