Thomas Johnson came into last night's 3A state final against Mount Hebron with an 18-0 record. Fourteen of those matches went the minimum three games.
The match last night also went three games.
Mount Hebron was that good.
"We played a real good team," said Thomas Johnson coach Susan Mason after Mount Hebron defeated the Patriots, 17-15, 15-2, 15-2, at Catonsville Community College.
"We weren't really tested during the season, and I knew coming in here we'd have to play our best to beat them. That's the best team we've seen in my 10 years of coaching."
Second-ranked Mount Hebron (18-2) earned its first state title since winning three in a row from 1990 to 1992.
"Everyone really wanted it," said senior Sylvia Kaltreider, who had a team-high 11 assists. "We knew we could beat this team. We just had to prove it, and we did."
Said Mount Hebron coach Daryl Beard: "The girls did a great job."
Both teams played tentatively at the start and it resulted in sluggish play. Leading 6-4, the Vikings extended their advantage to 9-4, 12-6 and 14-10. They looked to be in control.
Mount Hebron served for the match three times, but it failed each attempt.
Thomas Johnson finally took the opening the Vikings had given it. Behind the serving of Sara Combs and the shots of Judy Whims and Katie Korreck, the Patriots won five straight points for a 15-14 lead.
Sarah Eberhart, who had an excellent game for Mount Hebron, hit one of her nine kill shots to stop the Thomas Johnson run. But Mount Hebron could not win its serve, and the Patriots once again served for the game.
Thomas Johnson got the ball to its best hitter, 6-foot senior Janie Marshall, who went high to spike the ball at the net. But the Vikings' Allyson Sanders, who had just come into the game for the first time the play before, blocked the ball back for a winner.
Kaltreider, who played on a tender right ankle after spraining it Monday during practice, served out the match. Two of the three points came from spikes from Eberhart.
"Sarah Eberhart had a great match," said Kaltreider. "Everything I hit to her she pounded away."
Thomas Johnson never recovered after the first-game loss, only its sixth of the season. Mount Hebron jumped to a 9-0 lead in the second game and, after being tied 1-1 in the third game, won 11 straight points for a 12-1 cushion.
"If that first game hadn't been as close, I don't think we would have come out as strong as we did in the second game," said Kaltreider.
"After we got the first game out of the way, we were rolling," said Eberhart.
Said Hannas, who led the Vikings with 15 kills: "We played real well in the second and third games. We got on a roll and kept rolling. It was almost too easy."