Power became Loch Raven's calling card last year. The Raiders often dominated play at the net and rolled over most of their opponents on a run to the state championship.
But Loch Raven has lost much of that power, and this year's team must really play together to win. And that's what the third-ranked Raiders did last night in their 11-15, 16-14, 15-10, 15-10 victory at No. 10 Catonsville in a Baltimore County Division I match.
Loch Raven (6-1, 6-0) lacks much of last year's height, and it needs consistent play from all over the court. Last night, the Raiders' offense struggled for much of the match, and they relied heavily upon a strong defense.
And Sun Kang sparked that defense. In addition to teammate Jebry Simon, Kang made a number of big saves for Loch Raven. And when Kang wasn't playing well on defense, she found something big to do somewhere else.
"Sun Kang is probably the best all-around player that I can remember," said Loch Raven coach Carol McPherson. "She does it all."
Kang got some help from Jenny Clarke, Cheryl Sandgren and Tiggy Stevens at the net. Jen McGee pitched in with some good sets, often for Kang, as Loch Raven rallied from a slow start.
"We don't have a weak link on the team," said Kang, a 5-foot-8 senior. "But I think one of our disadvantages is we don't have as strong a front row as some other teams."
Catonsville (4-3, 4-3) used strong play from its front row to control the match early. Shannon Rexrode, ranked second in the metro area in kills, registered 27 and helped the Comets rally to win the first game.
Rexrode, with a number of good passes from setter Abigail Clark, sparked a Catonsville rally from a 9-1 deficit to take a 14-13 lead in Game 2.
But Stacy Bowersock then saved the game -- and possibly the match -- for Loch Raven with a kill than barely landed in-bounds. If the ball went out, it would have given Catonsville the game and a 2-0 lead. Instead, the Raiders rallied for the final three points to win the game and tie the match.
"That was a crucial point," said Catonsville coach Debbie Clem.
Loch Raven then took control. Capitalizing on numerous Catonsville mistakes, the Raiders took big early leads and hung on to win the final two games.
"We just made too many mistakes," said Clem. "We have five new people on the court this year, and the [mistakes] just come from the inexperience."