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Big runs help Marriotts Ridge volleyball sweep Oakland Mills in playoff opener

HOWARD COUNTY, MD — After an inconsistent regular season in which Marriotts Ridge failed to win or lose more than two matches in a row, the Mustangs were anything but in Thursday's 2A South region, Section I playoff opener against visiting Oakland Mills.

They went on a 9-0 run to pull away early in the first set and then used another 9-0 run late in the second to do the same. An 11-1 rally early the third set the stage for a 3-0 sweep (25-10, 25-16, 25-14) of the Scorpions and a matchup with top-seeded Glenelg on Monday.

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"They consistently kept the energy up and that is something that this team really needs to focus on," Marriotts Ridge coach Emma Dawe said. "It's the consistency and just being energized throughout every play, even when we're not on the long runs. We have to be up so we can be able to win that next play."

Junior Claire Meininger led the offense with eight kills, while senior Sophia Lee had seven and sophomore Rheign Davis had five.

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For a team with five freshmen and three sophomores on the roster, inconsistency during the regular season was expected. But Dawe says her young players have consistently improved — especially freshman setter Brenna O'Reilly, who Dawe singled out after the victory as having a great game — and winning a playoff game justifies their growth.

"It's absolutely huge. I hate to say but it's November when it matters," she said. "You take the entire season and practices to work out the kinks and fix the things that we need to do so when it comes to November, we can get back at teams and rehash some of the things we would've liked to improve upon during the regular season."

The loss is Oakland Mills' seventh straight to end the season after starting the year 3-5. Coach Kristin Anderson said her team had moments where they fought back, but ultimately the difference came down to inexperience.

"When you have more reps on a ball in volleyball, you're always going to get results," she said. "Those girls have been playing longer, it is what it is. ... Volleyball is all about who has momentum and who has energy, and we just couldn't grasp a hold on that. Kudos to Marriotts Ridge; their hitting percentage I think was phenomenal, much better than when we played them in the regular season."

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Davis and Meininger were key in the Mustangs' rally in the opening set. They each had two kills and a block during span in which they won 9 of 10 points to turn a 5-3 lead into a 14-4 advantage.

Lee, who is one of just three seniors on the squad, had three kills and a block to help her team crawl back in the second set after Oakland Mills (3-12) took an early 10-5 edge. The Scorpions led 13-12 when Marriotts Ridge (8-7) went on another 9-0 run to pull away and take a two-set advantage. Lee finished the stanza with five kills.

The Mustangs carried the momentum into the third and never allowed Oakland Mills any hope. After losing the first point, they won four straight and 11 of 12 to take an 11-2 lead. Meininger had three kills during the run and sophomore libero Meghan Kwon had an ace while serving a 7-0 run.

Now, Marriotts Ridge will prepare a rematch with Glenelg, which the Gladiators won in straight sets on Sept. 14. Dawe knows her team is much improved since that defeat and the dedication and motivation to keep the seniors' final season alive is there.

"We knew during the season that was a game that we could've played better," she said. "Knowing the team we see now compared to when we played them, I think there's no reason in the world that it's not doable, it's not a team we can hang with or push points with."

OTHER SCORES:

2A South, Section I quarterfinal:

Wilde Lake (11-5) def. Hammond (2-14) — 3-0

3A East, Section I quarterfinal:

Mt. Hebron (5-10) def. Long Reach (5-10) — 3-0 [25-10, 25-12, 26-24]

Long Reach stats: Angelina Casserly (1 ace, 7 kills, 1 block, 2 digs), Rachel Dotson (1 ace, 4 digs), Julia Gates (4 kills, 5 digs), Janaan Hamilton (1 kill, 14 assists, 2 digs), Rachel Jacavage (4 digs), Grace Kelly (2 aces, 10 digs), Rayna Livingston (6 digs), Hailey Ramberg (2 kills, 2 digs), Samira Toure (3 kills)

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