After a deflating first foray as a volleyball coach, Fallston's Elaine Settlemaier sent her players home for the summer of 1995, implored them to practice and hoped for the best.
Last night she got it.
One year removed from a 2-14 record, Settlemaier's team (11-3) disposed of a pesky visiting contingent from Dundalk (9-8) to capture the Class 3A North region championship, 15-8, 15-4, 15-6, and advance to the state semifinals. Lindsay Tanner, a junior transfer from Pennsylvania and one of four newcomers in Fallston's seven-player rotation, led the way with 18 service points.
"This is a completely different team from last year," Settlemaier said after she was awarded Fallston's first regional championship plaque. "It's kind of scary to see the talent I have to work with now, as such an inexperienced coach."
For an inexperienced team, Fallston demonstrated remarkable calm and savvy, even as it seemed that Dundalk would never go easy into the night.
In the first game, Tanner and senior Jessica Mook served Fallston to a 5-0 advantage. But Dundalk's Kristy Schultz responded with four service winners in an eight-point run before an Anne Ravn kill ended the rally. Down 7-8, Fallston took possession again and gave the ball to Tanner, and never gave it back.
"That wasn't the best I've done," said Tanner. "Earlier this year, I served all 15 points against Franklin."
Tanner closed the second game as well, serving the final three points. But it was Ravn who put matters out of reach, running off five straight between 4-1 and 9-1 in an easy 15-4 win.
After aces by the shortest and tallest players on the court, Brandy Pizzini and Jenn Heffler, Dundalk grabbed a 5-3 lead in the third game. Two net winners by Tanner -- one on a block, the other on a spike -- shifted the edge to Fallston, 8-6, and Katya Pinna closed out the match with a service winner.