Francis Scott Key coach Leo Totten believes the No. 13 Eagles win or lose as a team. Totten does not like to put the spotlight on individuals, but instead he enjoys praising the group.
And host Francis Scott Key needed strong play from the entire group to outlast North Carroll, 9-15, 15-8, 15-11, in the best-of-three championship match at the second Carroll County Volleyball Tournament yesterday.
Key, last year's runner-up, and North Carroll advanced to the championship match after posting the best records in the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Each school played four two-game sets, and Francis Scott Key went 8-0. North Carroll won six of its eight games, far ahead of Liberty (3-5), defending champion Westminster (2-6) and South Carroll (1-7).
For the Eagles, Stephanie Stambaugh (nine kills), Cindy Sheedy (eight kills) and Nicole Keffer (seven kills) often controlled play at the net. Erin Ness (17 assists) and Kristy Hollman (12 assists) were consistent setters, and Ericka Rutzebeck and Amy Brooks had strong all-around efforts.
During the round-robin play, the Eagles (8-0 in the regular season) defeated North Carroll, 15-7, 15-10. But the Panthers played aggressively in winning the opening game of the title match, as Karen Carter and Carisa Kreichauf often neutralized Stambaugh and Sheedy at the net.
The Eagles spent much of the opening game feeding Stambaugh and Sheedy in the middle of the front row. North Carroll, however, reacted well to that as Carter and Kreichauf made several key blocks.
But Francis Scott Key changed up in Game 2, often havinStambaugh, Sheedy or Keffer attack from the sides. The Eagles also began dumping the ball just over the front row and trying for kills toward the serving spot.
ANorth Carroll (6-2 in the regular season) held a 4-3 lead in Game 2 before Sheedy, Stambaugh and Keffer sparked a 9-3 run.
The momentum swung back and forth in Game 3. Key first took leads of 4-0 and 7-4 before North Carroll rallied for a 10-8 advantage thanks to some strong play from Kathleen Tunney and Kreichauf.
But the Eagles wrapped up the title by scoring seven of the final eight points. The Eagles used their power extensively in Game 3, posting 16 kills, five apiece from Keffer and Stambaugh.
"By the last game, we were tired," said North Carroll coach Don'a Martin. "I think there were so many times we were in the right place, but couldn't get the last step."