Trailing the third game, 6-4, yesterday with Broadneck's 6-foot-2 hitter Theresa Cornish enjoying a height advantage, the Glen Burnie Gophers volleyball team did what comes naturally for their namesake.

They dug themselves out of a hole to win, 15-8.

The Gophers (11-0 overall, 7-0 against the league) easily had dispatched of the Bruins (8-2 overall, 5-2 against the league) by identical 15-7 scores in the first two games. But in the third game, Glen Burnie had trouble delivering the coup de grace and trailed for the first time.

That's when coach Juanita Murdock-Milani called on the littlest Gopher, 5-foot-3 Michelle Ackerman, who packs her team's most powerful serve.

"In the third game, our defense was terrible. We had to make a few changes," said Murdock-Milani, whose team relies on an effective bumping and digging defensive scheme.

One of Murdock-Milani's changes included putting Ackerman in the back row for the contest. Murdock-Milani had hoped regular starter Kelly Miller (fractured left wrist) would make her return in the game -- which she did, but she was not playing at her full ability.

"I didn't want to risk putting Kelly back there. I knew (Cornish) was trying to bang the ball down so I didn't want to risk Kelly diving," said Murdock-Milani. "But (Ackerman) is an awesome server. She serves bullets, hits them low to the net, and she's a good passer."

With Ackerman serving at 6-4, the Gophers appeared to regain confidence.

Back-to-back dinks by Melanie Scharf and Linda Fannin (each with four kills) and a hard Ackerman serve forced a Broadneck carry to help the Gophers to regain the lead, 7-6.

A nice kill by Cornish (four kills) tied the game briefly, 7-7, but the Gophers had re-established their momentum and would not be stopped.

"Everyone seemed down in the third game and I think those quick points got them right back up," said Ackerman, who was good on 16 of 18 serves on the day with seven aces, including an ace and a service winner for the final two points in the last game.

Glen Burnie visits unbeaten Severna Park (11-0, 5-0) Friday in a game that should decide the county champion.

The Gophers conceded an advantage in height to the Bruins with Cornish, Talaya Williams (5-10) and Andrea Henry (5-11) in the front court.

But the Gophers showed power throughout the line-up with Fannin, Scharf, Christy Hutson (10 kills) and Stacy Gilligan and Mandy Albrecht (each with two kills).

"Glen Burnie can spike the ball hard from anywhere," said Broadneck coach Glenn Brainer. "They play good defense and they rarely make mistakes."

Broadneck still was licking its wounds after Friday's loss to Severna Park.

Cornish's injuries to the thumb and pinky in her serving and spiking hand forced Brainer to play her sparingly with the regional tournament on the horizon. He frequently subbed her in and out of the games.

In addition, Brainer chose not to risk the re-injury of the Bruins' best server, Nikki St. Clair (injured left shoulder), who was cleared to play by doctors. St. Clair was dressed for the game, but was relegated to a spectator's role.

Broadneck's top server was Jen Tozzi, who finished 16-of-17 with two aces.

The Gophers' strong, balanced serving came from Fannin (16-for-16, one ace), Albrecht and Gilligan (each 9-for-10 with two aces), Hutson (8-for-9, two aces) and Melanie Scharf (7-for-9, one ace).

"We all have a good court sense," said Scharf, a team captain. "We communicate well and work together. With a team like ours, you can't tell if one of us is having a bad game."

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