FREDERICK -- At the start, the South Carroll Cavaliers made it look easy. Then for a while they made it look hard. In the end, they simply persevered.
The third-seeded Cavaliers advanced to the Class 3A West regional finals with a 3-1 win over second-seeded Thomas Johnson. The scores were 15-9, 15-2, 10-15, 16-14.
The Cavs (10-6) started quickly in winning the first two games, taking a 10-1 lead in the first and a 10-0 lead in the second for a commanding advantage.
Thomas Johnson, which defeated South Carroll twice in the regular season, regrouped to take the third game and had a 12-8 lead in the fourth game before the Cavs rallied to claim the win.
At 14-14 in Game 4, South Carroll's Nicole Spencer had a service point to take the game to match point. Junior Melissa Gettemy finished it with the last of her 12 kills.
The Cavs will play at Walt Whitman in Montgomery County tomorrow. For South Carroll coach Debbie Eaton, the third time was the charm.
"They had beaten us twice in the regular season. The first time pretty easily and then the second match went five games," she said.
"We came out fired up and aggressive and I was hoping we'd do it in three. Our serves were on, our hits were strong, we were moving our feet and communicating. Doing everything you want to do in the first two games."
"Then we came out flat and let them get back in the match. We had lost before after being up two games and those are heartbreaking losses. We just decided that wasn't going to happen tonight and hit some pressure serves in the end."
Everyone contributed in the Cavs' win. Melanie Zahn carried them early and finished with 14 kills -- six in the first game.
Spencer had 19 kills and 15 service points, and Gettemy was all over the court, finishing with 12 kills. Erin Windsor had some big service points down the stretch, and Erica Bouthner was steady throughout.
Thomas Johnson finished the season 10-5 and showed heart in coming back. The Cavaliers had it on the ropes after winning the second game 15-2. The Cavs then took a 7-3 lead in the third looking for a sweep, but the Patriots rallied to send the match into a fourth game.
Neither team wanted to take control early in the fourth and deciding game.
There were six straight side outs at one point. Finally, with the Cavs down 12-8, they closed the gap to 12-11 and then tied it at 13-13 before Spencer and Gettemy finished it out.