The Francis Scott Key Eagles had a long and joyous ride to the state playoffs this season. Unfortunately, their stay wasn't a long one.
The third-seeded Eagles came out flat in their Class 1A semifinal and the second-seeded Clear Spring Blazers -- the best of a strong lot of volleyball schools in Washington County -- weren't ones to sympathize.
The Blazers needed just 42 minutes to eliminate Key, 15-1, 15-1, 15-1, yesterday at Centennial High School.
Clear Spring advances to the state final Saturday at Catonsville Community College, where it will meet North Caroline.
After winning two straight five-game matches to come away as Class 1A North Region champions last week, the Eagles (11-7) came up empty yesterday.
"It was an excellent season," said Key junior varsity coach Alice Smith, filling in for an absent Leo Totten.
"We didn't get here by accident. This team just didn't show what they could do. Tuesday and Thursday we showed that."
Clear Spring (17-0), led by junior hitter Heather Aleshire, dominated throughout.
She got things started in the first game with three kills, then broke the game open midway through with seven consecutive service points to give the Blazers an 11-1 lead.
"When you get to states, you don't know how the girls are going to come out of the blocks. Our girls just got stuck in the blocks," Smith said.
"[Clear Spring] got their confidence up and they're a very good team, as their 17-0 record shows. We never pushed to get back in it."
The Eagles were off their game in all phases yesterday, struggling on serves, with sets and eventually with confidence.
The final point summed up the day, as two Key players failed to communicate and watched match point fall between them.
The Eagles went into the regionals as the third seed, knocked off second seed Perryville and then defeated top seed Owings Mills to advance to the state playoffs.
The win against Perryville came after they trailed 12-9 in the fifth and deciding game. The Eagles beat Owings Mills after dropping Game 1 and then falling behind 14-7 in Game 2, which they came back to win, 16-14.
"Getting to states was an accomplishment in itself and the girls should be screaming about that," Smith said.
"They showed a lot in winning the two five-game matches, and maybe we're not the best team in the state, but we're in the top four."