It's hard to believe No. 6 Perry Hall's three-game sweep of No. 3 Loch Raven last night served just as a tune-up for the Baltimore County championship.
Not only had the Gators never before beaten Loch Raven, but they had lost three straight county title matches to the Raiders.
Last night, however, the host Gators, powered by nine kills each from Erica King and Stephanie Sanzone, rolled past the Raiders, 15-7, 15-2, 15-11, for the Division I championship.
Now to take their first county crown, the Gators (15-4 overall, 10-0 league) must win the title match with the Division II champ (at Hereford or Chesapeake) Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Raiders coach Carol McPherson said that match should be nothing more than a formality.
"As far as I'm concerned this was the county championship," said McPherson. "Unless there's a huge surprise in Division II teams, I would say there will be no contest."
Last night's match wasn't much of a contest either.
The Gators completely dominated at the net until they reached a 10-3 lead in the final game. Then, the momentum shifted to the Raiders (10-2, 9-1) who tied the game at 10.
When the Gators tried five different offensive plays and Loch Raven got five straight points, Perry Hall coach Pam Wilt called a time out.
"I told them to go back to basic volleyball until we get this game under control," said Wilt.
That didn't take long. After an 11-11 tie, the Gators reeled off the last four points -- all on Loch Raven errors.
That was pretty much the story of the entire match.
Loch Raven scored only five points with its offense. The few others came on Perry Hall mistakes usually mis-connections or misfirings on complex plays.
"Perry Hall was outstanding and when you play against a team like that, they make you look bad," said McPherson.
King and Sanzone caught the Raiders off guard several times on the quick sets from Kim Opdyke (24 assists).
But the Gators' mistakes at the net were few and far between. King and Sanzone had 17 good hits each and only three hitting errors apiece.
King also dominated the net defensively with five block assists and Carin Moorefield had six block assists.
The only concern for the Gators was the third-game letdown.
"We just made a couple mistakes," said King. "We tried not to let it get us down. We just put our hearts into it and we pulled it out in the end. To us, this was more important that the county championship."