C. Milton Wright ended eight years of girls volleyball frustration against Bel Air yesterday, but victory did not come easily. In a battle of ranked and unbeaten teams, the visiting Mustangs rallied from a two-game deficit to squeeze out a 9-15, 13-15, 15-11, 15-4, 16-14 triumph.
The decision sent No. 8 Wright to 9-0 overall, 7-0 in the league. Bel Air -- winner of the last eight Harford County titles -- and making it into this week's poll at No. 10, dropped to 8-1, 6-1.
In a sport noted for its swings in momentum, Bel Air came out sharp in the first game, the second could have gone either way, and the visitors took charge in squaring the match. Winning coach Bonnie Fry -- who had been on the losing end the past eight years -- said, "We didn't have it in the last game. I was scared we were going to lose it."
Down 2-0, she told her charges just to get the ball in play, and not worry about about hitting everything. "Bel Air is so consistent, you have to be patient," she said. And she shifted senior Lissa Leiter to first setter because "she seemed to be working better."
The Mustangs, a senior dominated squad, got great play from hitters Christine Savage and Carin Gorrell. "She [Savage] was so ready to play," Fry said. "She was really psyched. And I don't think she made a mistake."
Asked about being down 2-0, she said, "We knew we'd better start playing -- work harder, dive for the ball."
Bel Air is fundamentally sound with excellent team balance and relies on the other team to make mistakes. From a starting lineup tTC of three seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, the Bobcats got yeoman work from their two leaders, senior Chris Fleckenstein and junior Amy Finlayson.
Time and again Finlayson came through with a slam or a block on critical points, and she served well.
Curiously, the game ended just as last year's did when Bel Air won 16-14 in the fifth game. Then, C. Milton Wright was ahead, 14-12. This time, Bel Air had leads of 5-1 and 12-8, before the visitors rallied behind Leiter and Kellie Rueschling to 12-11.
From a tie at 13, Bel Air went ahead 14-13, but the visitors thwarted an attempt at match point. Then, Savage slammed one down to tie it, and with Debbie Keiser serving, the home team was unable to return.