Behind 22 combined kills from Kara Crawford and Colleen McAuley, Glenelg volleyball swept host Marriotts Ridge in three sets – 25-18, 25-11, 28-26 – on Thursday.
It's just the second county win for the Gladiators (2-5 county, 5-5 overall) and first since Sept. 8, but coach Jason Monjes said the win over the Mustangs (1-6, 4-6) is proof of how they have improved over the season.
"The big thing is even though we have a record that doesn't really reflect how the team has been playing, the last couple of matches I feel like the team has started to jell," he said. "I moved a couple of our players in the lineup around to make sure we are a little more offensive, better in the front row and the back row is a little more solidified. The girls are starting to realize what their role is on the team.
"This is the best I've seen them play all season as a unit."
On the other side, Marriotts Ridge coach Amanda Saber said the match was essentially a microcosm of how the season has played out.
"We just play very inconsistently, as evidenced by the second game to the third game," she said. "They are not a group that will give up, so after a poor showing in the second set they game back and, especially in the beginning of the third set, got off to a good start and kept pushing until the end. ... We're still working on being consistent all the way through because the pieces are there. We just don't always put them together."
Glenelg never trailed in the first set, though it didn't create much separation until midway through when McAuley pounded two kills to spark a 5-1 run that made it 15-10. The Gladiators led by at least four points the rest of the set.
They carried the momentum over into the second. McAuley was behind the service line for seven straight points, which included two aces and a kill from the junior, to extend the cushion to 11-2. Crawford (11 kills) then knocked down two kills in a 6-1 run, and McAuley (12 kills, 2 aces) later hammered three kills in a row to make it 22-6.
"The first two sets we definitely had the serve going," Monjes said. "We had quite a few aces and, just like with every opponent you play in volleyball, if you're able to win the serving and passing match, then whoever stays in system more wins. Today, they were more out of system and we were in system."
Determined to bounce back from a poor second set, Marriotts Ridge came out firing in the third behind a total team effort. Six different players registered a kill, block or ace in the first eight Mustang points, in which they held an 8-3 lead and forced Glenelg to call a timeout.
Saber said she mixed things up by moving from a 6-2 to a 5-1, and switched Jocelyn Schmitt to libero.
"I think it was a good combination, and knowing the third set is, we've got to fight right now," Saber said. "So I think it was a little bit of that as well."
The Gladiators, though, slowly picked away at the deficit. Marriotts Ridge's Gabby Peitsch had a kill and a block on back-to-back points to make keep a 13-9 lead, but Glenelg eventually tied the score at 15 on a kill from Alex Wood, and the two teams went back and forth until the final point.
The Mustangs had three set points but couldn't manage to finish it off, which opened the door for the Gladiators to take advantage. At 26-all, they closed out the match with an Erin Cutroneo kill, a hitting error and McAuley kill.
"I'm liking how the team had progressed to this point because I think we've found roles for every girl on the team and found a lineup where we feel we are able to play our best in front row and back row," Monjes said. "We've come to the conclusion that we're not the biggest team, maybe not the most technically gifted team, but we're going to have to fight for every point and grit it out."
Meanwhile, Marriotts Ridge has had a down season, but Saber knows she has the talent – especially in the middle – to make noise in the playoffs. Consistency and confidence, though, will be key.
"We've had games where passing has been on and hitting has been off, and we've had games here passing has been off and our hitting is really good," she said. "We've just trying to get on the same page all the time."
Maddie Southern had 32 assists and nine digs for the Gladiators, while Schmitt (5 kills, 1 ace) and Peitsch (4 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace) paced the Mustangs.
Glenelg (2-5, 5-5) def. Marriotts Ridge (1-6, 4-6) – 3-0 [25-18, 25-11, 28-26]
Atholton (6-1, 7-3) def. Reservoir (6-1, 9-1) – 3-1 [19-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-14]
Atholton stats: Sam Miller (20 kills, 1 assist, 10 digs, 2 aces), Lisa Zoch (13 kills, 13 digs, 2 aces), Hope Kelly (43 assists, 6 digs, 1 ace, 3 kills), Brooke Mason (8 kills, 1 assist, 1 dig, .5 block), Kelly Simons (3 kills, 2 assists, 1 dig, 3.5 blocks), Nikita Rajarajan (3 kills), Kira Thompson (3 digs), Elise Park (15 digs, 2 assists, 2 kills)
Howard (7-0, 9-1) def. Long Reach (1-6, 4-7) – 3-0 [25-10, 25-15, 25-11]
Howard stats: Sarah Sweet (12 kills, 9 aces, 4 digs), Madison Paige (11 kills), Christina Kundrat (5 kills, 3 blocks, 3 aces), Sarah Binkley (5 kills), Anna Jezerski (4 kills), Grace Sweet (13 digs, 2 aces), Julia McKenna (33 assists, 2 aces)
Centennial (5-2, 7-3) def. Oakland Mills (1-6, 4-6) – 3-0 [25-12, 25-14, 25-15]
Centennial stats: Jackie Sterenberg (7 kills, 4 aces, 5 digs), Emily Przybyla (15 assists, 4 digs), Alex Stanislavsky (2 kills, 1 block), Emily Dewhurst (2 digs), Rachel Mathew (7 kills, 1 ace, 4 digs, 1 block), Gabby Fairley (2 kills, 1 dig), Camryn Allen (1 kill, 11 digs, 5 aces)
Oakland Mills stats: Naimah Jangha (1 ace, 16 assists, 10 digs), Merina Seldon (11 digs), Rachel Snead (3 kills), Alana Joseph (7 kills, 5 digs), Nya Lightfoot (5 kills)
Mt. Hebron (6-1, 9-1) def. Hammond (0-7, 3-7) – 3-0 [25-14, 25-9, 25-16]