Maybe it was a letdown or just one of those bad days or as senior big hitter Julie Allen said: "We were trying to run a lot of quick sets in our new offense."
Whatever the reason, top-ranked and unbeaten Severna Park did not exactly overwhelm 12th-ranked North County last night even though the Falcons won in three games, 15-7, 15-6, 16-14, in Linthicum.
Of course, it would have been hard to match the nearly flawless performance Severna Park (8-0) put on against Northeast in its last match before North County. The Falcons served 60-for-60 and lost only four points to the Eagles.
It was obvious from the start last night that this was not going to be a vintage effort by the Falcons.
They were a little tentative, had some miscommunication, seemed a little tired and didn't play with any emotion.
"I didn't expect us to play perfectly," said Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar. "But there was a lot of laziness, standing around and failure to execute. I'm not thrilled with our play. We made mental mistakes and didn't show up to play."
The Falcons did change some of their offensive patterns and continued to add new things to their offense, said Dunbar, but he expected his players to do a better job with the changes.
"We forced some stuff," said Dunbar. "Danielle [Kaegel who runs the offense] was forcing stuff, and she has to learn when to run the offense and when to pass. Our passing was poor the whole match."
With Kaegel struggling a little, Dunbar inserted Lani McFeely into the lineup in an attempt to gain some control.
Kaegel did come through with one big serve after another in the first two games and finished by making good on 18 of 19 serves with five aces.
McFeely responded with a big dink for the 15th point in the third game, giving Severna Park a 15-14 lead.
Lauren Butler then won the third game and ended the match with a kill that completed an eight-point run by Severna Park that wiped out a 14-8 North County lead.
The Knights (4-3) had hung tough most of the match on hustle, determination and some outstanding serving by Stephanie Sachs (10 of 12 serves) and Mandi Knickman (9 of 12 serves with three aces).
Jessica Gibson contributed five kills for North County, which has lost three straight matches after getting off to a 4-0 start.
It looked as if the Knights were going to force a fourth game when Kim Hoyle's strong serve gave them a 14-8 lead in the third. But Rachael Benton (19 of 23 with five aces in the match) ran off seven straight points on her strong left-handed serve for the 15-14 lead, prompting North County coach Amy Williams to call timeout.
Benton then served long and the teams exchanged sideouts six times before Butler ended the match.
Williams said: "We were trying to mix it up against Severna Park. We had become too predictable in our losses to Arundel and South River. But you have to remember how good Severna Park is. They served the ball hard and deep in our court, and I think we were tired by the third game and just couldn't hold the lead."
Allen led the Falcons in kills with 15, followed by Butler with
seven and Benton with four.