FREDERICK -- After losing twice to Thomas Johnson during the regular season, it was vital for North Carroll to get off to a good start in yesterday's Class 3A West region final.
Thomas Johnson hitter Janie Marshall didn't let it happen.
Marshall set the tone early and her teammates followed right behind, leading the Patriots to a 15-3, 15-3, 15-7 sweep of the Panthers.
The Patriots (17-0) advance to the Class 3A state semifinals, set for La Plata High School on Tuesday, while North Carroll's season ends at 13-4.
"It was tough. We knew coming in [Thomas Johnson] had beaten us twice so it may have been on some of our players' minds. We wanted to come out as quick as possible, but we didn't do that tonight," said North Carroll senior setter Stacy Cook.
"Today didn't reflect our play this season. Every team has its bad days and there were things we could have done better today. The important thing was we still played as a family and gave it all we had. It wasn't enough, but that's all you can ask for."
Thomas Johnson jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first game and never looked back. Marshall was the big reason, coming up with four kills and two blocks in the run. She finished the afternoon with 11 kills and six blocks.
The Panthers' keying on her opened things up for Judy Whims (six kills) and the rest of a balanced Patriots team.
"We decided to go to our power game. In the past, we'd hit hard and also place the ball. Today, we just hit until they stopped us," said Thomas Johnson coach Sue Mason.
"We also played the best defense we've played all year long. It was an outstanding effort from everyone."
North Carroll took a 3-1 lead in the second game, but the Patriots rolled off 14 straight to come away with the 15-3 win.
It was apparent the Panthers, who had to travel twice to Montgomery County to reach the region finals, weren't at their best. First hits were a bit scattered, sets were slightly off and having to contend with Marshall was another factor.
Thomas Johnson jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third game before North Carroll rallied to get back in the game, getting a service point from Carisa Kreichauf to close to 6-5. The Patriots eventually pulled away, finishing the match with a block from Marshall.
The Panthers got a fine effort from junior hitter Karen Carter, who, along with Kreichauf and a number of other juniors will be heard from next season.
"Some people counted us out with us returning only five players, but our juniors really stepped up," said North Carroll coach Don'a Martin. "I'm looking forward to next season having seven back."
Seniors Kathleen Tunney, Wendy Redmer and Cook closed out outstanding careers for the Panthers.