In the end, there was just too much of Beth Lister for the North Carroll volleyball team to overcome.
Lister came through with one critical kill after another for unbeaten Westminster last night, leading the No. 13 Owls to a 16-14, 7-15, 16-14, 11-15, 15-6 victory over the No. 10 Panthers at North Carroll.
Lister and the Owls (8-0, 6-0 in the Central Maryland Conference, 3-0 in Carroll County) simply took over the fifth game after being hurt by inconsistency in the first four games. Lister ended the match with a booming kill.
North Carroll (6-2, 6-1, 2-1) had won five straight matches going into the showdown with Westminster.
It was obvious from the start that Westminster was more charged up than North Carroll.
"We've been after them for years," said Lister, who had 15 kills last night. "We were way down in the county preseason rankings and that kind of made us a little mad."
North Carroll and South Carroll were ranked ahead of Westminster.
Panthers' coach Don'a Martin did everything possible to halt Lister but nothing worked. Martin began with sophomore Carisa Kreichauf blocking against Lister but switched to Katy Wilhelm on Lister in the second game.
It slowed Lister down enough to enable North Carroll to win the second game but she kept coming back.
There were even several times in the match that North Carroll inadvertently set the ball up perfectly for Lister instead of its teammates.
"I believe we set Westminster up better than ourselves tonight," said Martin. "It was nerves on our part. We just didn't have a lot of fire and our serving was inconsistent early. We had six bad serves in the first game when we lost and only three in the second game when we won."
For Westminster, Carissa Cook (five kills) and Tara Dorsey (three kills) and Tara Haney (three kills) joined in the offensive show.
Westminster co-coach Dana Falls said: "Our kids took it personally when we were ranked behind North Carroll and South Carroll and set their sights on winning the county championship. Our plan against North Carroll was to set up our middle because they don't block the middle that well. We had watched them."
Owls co-coach Michelle Salafia-Crouse said she isn't surprised by her team's rise to the top of the county standings midway through the season.
"We knew we were going to be a strong team with a dominant player like Beth Lister," she said. "And we have Tara Haney and Tara Dorsey who have had some big nights for us."