Wilde Lake's Jaleah Murray (9) and Rachel Eisenhauer (11), seen here celebrating during a match against River Hill on Sept. 27, helped the Wildecats beat Marriotts Ridge, 3-2, on Oct. 24.
Wilde Lake's Jaleah Murray (9) and Rachel Eisenhauer (11), seen here celebrating during a match against River Hill on Sept. 27, helped the Wildecats beat Marriotts Ridge, 3-2, on Oct. 24. (Nicole Munchel / for BSMG)

Rachel Eisenhauer took a moment to compose herself on the bench during the 90-second intermission between the second and third sets. After the first two sets slipped out of grasp, and playing in what could be the final home game of her volleyball career at Wilde Lake, the four-year varsity player replayed the manuscript in her head of how she would remember a loss on senior night. The thought didn’t sit well.

From that point on, Wilde Lake slowly chipped into Marriotts Ridge’s advantage, and before too long, a winner-take-all fifth set was underway. The Wildecats left no doubt, winning the deciding set, 15-8, and the match (20-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-8) to cap a furious comeback on senior night.

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“I was really driven,” Eisenhauer said. “I wanted to win really bad and have this be a good, not end of the season, but a good moment to remember from senior year. I did not want to lose this game.”

Things looked bleak in the opening sets for the Wildecats (5-5 overall, 9-5 county), who surrendered early leads of 7-3 and 5-0 in the first two frames while committing unforced errors that were practically free points for the opposing Mustangs.

“It comes and goes,” Wilde Lake coach Nick Sharp said. “Sometimes you get real hot with a serving streak and then sometimes you can’t buy a serve.”

Wilde Lake got off to another quick start in the third set and held a 3-1 edge, but like the previous two, it didn’t stick. Marriotts Ridge took a 6-3 lead after a 5-0 run, but the Wildecats answered with its own 5-0 run to make it 14-10 after five straight aces by Claudia Sweitzer.

And even though the Mustangs closed to within 19-18, Wilde Lake slammed the door this time around.

“Mental fortitude. Mental toughness,” Sharp said. “You have to think like, ‘That play is over with, history.’ … Mighty proud of them for coming back like that.”

In the fourth set, Marriotts Ridge held an early 5-2 edge thanks to kills from Claire Meininger and Rheign Davis and slowly increased their lead to 17-12 after three-straight hitting errors by the Wildecats. Wilde Lake, behind jolting spikes from Jaleah Murray, then staged one of many comebacks with an 8-1 run to take a 20-18 lead. Like the second set, it was tied at 23-23, but this time the Wildecats finished with energy behind a spike by Aenilah Watkins and a Sweitzer-to-Elise Crouch kill.

“I think that’s what we really drove us, the energy that we have,” Murray said. “I wasn’t about to give them that game.”

In the fifth set, the Wildecats staked a 5-1 lead, only to have it slip away after three errors helped yield a 6-5 Marriotts Ridge lead. But from that moment on, the Wildecats never committed a single error from the service line — something they committed 19 times on Tuesday night — and finished on a resounding 10-2 run.

Murray, who didn’t have much success at the service line in the first four sets, helped close the deal with the go-ahead ace. Kills by Watkins, Anna Brown, Sweitzer and Eisenhauer ensued and a block by Watkins ended it.

The Mustangs (4-7, 7-7), meanwhile, will have to pick themselves up rather quickly since Thursday was its last regular season game before the playoffs.

“It’s about finding heart and determination to continue to push the entire game. They didn’t close it out,” Marriotts Ridge coach Emma Dawe said. “It’s clearly frustrating. But it comes together through a team. You have to be able to count and rely on other people even when somebody else is having a bad night.

“We now can look back on an entire season, and we can look at things and figure out where we need to continue to push and things we need to improve upon. Right now, it’s about being consistent and making sure we come out every single night focused. We just have to focus.”

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