It’s safe to say the rebuilding year for the Wilde Lake volleyball program is officially in the past.
The Wildecats, who finished with a disappointing 2-13 record last fall, continued their impressive start to the 2016 campaign with a 25-13, 25-22, 20-25, 25-12 home win over Long Reach Thursday night to improve to 3-1 in county play and 6-1 overall.
“I give them all the credit,” said Wilde Lake first-year coach Nick Sharp. “They work hard, they’re conditioning and they’re working well together. It’s a unit – it’s a team. They have put the time and effort in.”
Camille Johnson, a senior who has been a steady contributor for the Wildecats over the last three years, led the way with 17 kills – including eight in the first set – and added two aces. Even she said the hot start is a little surprising.
“I think going into the season we weren’t expecting as much as we’ve shown,” she said. “... After we lost all of our seniors my sophomore year it was a big rebuilding year and I was able to move to the outside. I feel like I’ve really improved and Faith [Leslie] has really stepped up as a great setter and [so has] Sydney Tucker on the outside as well.”
Trailing 6-4 early in the first set, Wilde Lake reeled off 11 straight points, which included three aces by Tucker, to take a 15-6 lead. Johnson followed with five kills the rest of the way to close out the set.
“She reads the ball, the court and the defense well and knows where to be to make a play,” Sharp said of Johnson.
Long Reach (1-3 county, 4-4 overall) settled in in the second but called a timeout down 17-13. The Lightning responded with five consecutive points to take one-point advantage, and then took another lead at 21-20. But Elise Crouch put down three kills in the next six points to help the Wildecats pull away.
The Lightning, however, really found their groove in the third and took a 6-1 lead behind two kills and a block from Angelina Casserly. Though Wilde Lake responded well and eventually held a 17-13 advantage, Long Reach rallied to score seven points in a row, which featured two blocks from Casserly, to take the lead for good.
“They picked up the pace a little bit and we slacked off a little bit,” Sharp said. “That’s a good team we just played and they have some great offense.”
Any chances of forcing a fifth set, though, were lost when Wilde Lake started the fourth set with a 7-0 run. It eventually extended its cushion to 16-5 and comfortably cruised to win the fourth set and the match.
“We really brought out intensity up in the second and third games. The fourth game just got away from us,” said Lightning coach Liz Dolan. “... As a whole, I think we could have hit a little better, but I’m really proud of them.”
As exciting as the start of the season has been for Wilde Lake, the same can be said for Long Reach, despite the defeat. The Lightning won only six sets and one match total last fall, but entered the day riding a three-game winning streak that included a 3-0 victory over Hammond on Sept. 22, their first county victory since 2012.
Dolan said matching up with Anne Arundel County was a huge boost for her team and their confidence, as they beat all three of their opponents – Glen Burnie, Meade and Chesapeake.
“I think going to the other schools and getting a feel for the other competition has been amazing for us,” she said. “We really enjoyed their competition level and it’s really brought our spirits up. Practices have been awesome – the girls are really getting into it and I’m really excited for the rest of our season and years to come.”
Casserly led the Lightning with seven kills and four blocks, while Dolan said Rachel Jacavage “was all over the court and did an awesome job.” Grace Kelly also pitched in with three aces and two kills.
Wilde Lake, meanwhile, finished with 17 total aces, including four from Crouch and three apiece from Emma Jordan and Leslie.
Long Reach will host Reservoir on Tuesday, while the Wildecats will host Oakland Mills.
Wilde Lake (3-1 county, 6-1 overall) def. Long Reach (1-3, 4-4) – 3-1 [25-13, 25-22, 20-25, 25-12]
Atholton (3-1, 4-3) def. Glenelg (1-3, 4-3) – 3-0 [25-9, 25-14, 25-12]
Atholton stats: Lisa Zoch (13 kills, 1 assist, 8 digs, ½ block), Elise Park (2 kills, 5 digs), Sam Miller (12 kills, 7 digs, 3 aces), Hope Kelly (28 assist, 4 digs, 1 ace), Brooke Mason (7 kills, 1 assist, 1 dig, 1 block, 1 ace), Nikita Rajarajan (2 kills, ½ block), Kira Thompson (1 dig), Anielka Skibniewska (2 digs), Kelly Simons (3 kills, 3 blocks, 2 assists)
Glenelg stats: Kara Crawford (10 kills, 4 digs), Maddie Southern (16 assists), Alex Wood (9 digs)
Centennial (3-1, 5-2) def. Hammond (0-4, 3-4) – 3-0 [25-17, 25-7, 25-10]
Centennial stats: Emily Przybyla (1 kill, 17 assists, 4 aces, 7 digs), Jackie Sterenberg (5 kills, 9 aces, 7 digs), Alexandra Stanislavsky (2 kills, 1 block), Emily Dewhurst (1 kill, 1 dig), Rachel Mathew (8 kills, 1 ace, 8 digs), Gabby Fairley (5 kills, 1 block), Camryn Allen (4 aces, 10 digs), Anna Chan (2 kills, 1 dig)
Hammond stats: Tamara Sweeney (2 kills, 1 block), Hannah Gorel (2 kills, 1 ace, 5 digs, 11 assists), Imani Reid (2 kills), Grace Cheney (8 kills), Rebekah Grayson (1 ace, 3 digs), Kelly Smith (10 digs)
Howard (4-0, 6-1) def. Oakland Mills (0-4, 3-4) – 3-0 [25-13, 25-17, 25-17]
Oakland Mills stats: Merina Seldon (8 digs), Naimah Jangha (2 aces, 5 digs, 6 assists), Rachel Snead (1 kill, 5 digs, 1 ace), Alana Joseph (3 kills, 6 digs), Nya Lightfoot (2 kills, 1 dig)
Reservoir (4-0, 7-0) def. River Hill (2-2, 2-5) – 3-2 [16-25, 25-20, 25-22, 15-25, 15-12]
Reservoir stats: Sydney Allen (12 kills, 13 digs), Amaka Chukwujekwu (19 kills, 1 ace, 3 blocks, 8 digs), Enitan Omolewa (6 kills, 1 ace), Brooke Saunderson (1 kill, 3 aces, 1 block, 8 digs, 36 assists), Bethany Spicher (2 kills), Evelyn Wilson (2 aces, 6 digs), Pam Chukwujekwu (1 block, 2 digs), Jamie Kaylie (13 digs)
Mt. Hebron (3-1, 6-1) def. Marriotts Ridge (0-4, 3-4) – 3-0 [25-16, 25-18, 25-11]