A fifth game seemed inevitable, but Mount Hebron's Jen Dohler wantedno part of one.
Although her Vikings led the top-seeded Loch Raven Raiders two games to one in the Class 2A Region II volleyball final, third-ranked Hebron was trailing in the fourth game of the best-of-five match Thursday. The Raiders' best server, Amanda Kang, stood ready to serve out the game.
"I knew we could do it," said Dohler, the Vikings' outstanding hitter. "I wanted to win it right there."
Kang's next serve unexpectedly sailed into the net. And Dohler was true to her word.
She delivered three big kills -- including the game-winner -- during an 8-0 run that lifted the Vikings to a 13-15, 15-11, 15-8, 16-14, victory over the Raiders.
"We got a little overconfident in that last game," said Mount Hebron coach Jeannine McCrum. "During the timeout, I told them 'All right, we've made ourselves enough of a challenge.' "
Mount Hebron (14-3) stood up well to every challenge the Raiders (14-2) could throw at them. The obvious challenge was that posed by Raiders hitter Wendy Vinje. McCrum assigned Dohler the task of shadowing the Loch Raven star. Vinje finished the match with 14 kills but wasn'tparticularly effective when the Raiders needed her.
"As soon as we shut her down, things started going our way," said server Kai Scott. "Jen did a great job."
Things didn't start out so great for the Vikings, as they fell behind 7-1 in the first game. Dohler managed one block on Vinje, and Tracy Porter came up with another. Mount Hebronactually led, 11-10, at one point, but faded badly down the stretch and lost, 15-13.
"We tend to be a slow-starting team," explained McCrum. "I don't care how much warm-up you have, it's not the same as game time."
The second game began better, as Scott led with an ace. She would finish the night 18-18 serving, with four aces. Dohler, who finished the match with 13 kills and four blocks, collected six kills in the second game. Loch Raven rallied to close to 12-11, but a dink by Dohler and a huge block on Vinje by Brooke Christopher paved the way to a 15-11 win.
"Coach is always afraid if we lose the second game, we'll be in trouble," Dohler said.
At that point, the Raiders were clearly the ones in trouble. Mount Hebron jumped out to a 9-1 lead in game three. Loch Raven could get no closer than 13-7. Christopher, who was 17-20 serving with four aces, served out the game for the 15-8 victory.
The Vikings looked as if they intended to get the match over quickly at the outset of the fourth game. A 4-0 opening run featured aces by Angie Kress (15-17, four aces), an ace and a kill by Scott and a kill by Christopher.
"I've been going for more consistency lately," Scott said of her serving. "Really, the aces were no big deal."
By then, the Raiders' hitting had all but disappeared. From the outset of the third game until that point, they were held to three kills.
"When you have one main hitter, any coach is going to have someone mark them," said Loch Raven coach Carol McPherson.
Suddenly, the Raiders caught fire. From 0-4, they jumped in front, 7-4. The Vikings managed to close to 9-8, but Kang, serving well despite being weak from bronchitis, connected on two aces to put Loch Raven a single, tantalizing point from victory.
"We wanted to prove we were a comeback team," said Scott. "Because we haven't been all year."
They were this night. And they didn't need another game to prove it.