When Dulaney's Leanne Costa smashed the match-winning kill in last night's state final, the No. 3 Lions remarkably still had energy left to celebrate.
In an exhausting two-and-a-half hour match, the Lions pulled out a 15-11, 12-15, 13-15, 15-11, 15-12 victory over Montgomery Blair for the Class 4A state title at CCBC-Catonsville.
For a team that had lost only one game all season, the Lions (20-0) proved their mettle in the grueling marathon by coming from 11-9 down to win the fourth game and 12-10 down to win the fifth.
"That was the most incredible feeling," said Lions setter Erin Reinhardt, who had 52 assists in the match. "When we won this one, it was so much better than winning the other ones, because we had to work so hard. It was just a rush."
The Lions had many heroes last night in their first appearance in the state final. Lindsay Lawson had 23 kills and Costa, 18, as the Lions attacked hard throughout the match. Julie Salamon, Jill Schubert and Veronica Briggs played stellar defense in the back row and Nicole Tuttle emerged as a force in the middle with nine kills and five blocks.
In a final game filled with long rallies and excellent defense on both sides, the Lions rallied from 10-12 down to win the last five points. Costa tied the game at 12 with a kill down the line and, after two Blair hitting errors, finished off the victory with another kill.
"When I saw that set to Leanne, I said, 'Game over,' " said Dulaney coach Ian Blanchard. "That was the best set she'd gotten all night. She went over the outside blocker's hands. Beautiful."
The Lions knew they had to finish off the match when they did, while the Blazers (17-3) had their top two hitters, Nicole Reed (22 kills) and Rebecca Segal (14 kills), out of the front row. One more rotation and Reed would have moved to the net.
Earlier in the match, the battle in the middle of the net proved critical against the Blazers' 5-foot-11 Segal and 5-10 Lora Armstrong (five kills, seven blocks). Adjustments by the Lions blockers against Segal, who liked to hit diagonally to the right, forced her to hit wider. Late in the fifth game, she couldn't keep her hits in the court.
"At first, it was hard because both of them had different paces [to their hitting]," said Tuttle, "but I just told myself I had to block them and I got the hang of it after a while."
Tuttle's blocking brought the Lions back in the fourth game after they squandered a 9-5 lead and fell behind 11-9. Her block on Armstrong brought the Lions within 11-10. She and Briggs combined for a point block on Reed at 13-11 and after a Costa kill, Tuttle stuffed Reed again for game point.
In the fifth game, the Lions ran up a 5-1 lead as both teams tired and the Blazers made five hitting errors. The Blazers later rallied to lead 12-10 on a 7-1 run that Lawson finally snapped with a kill.
Segal then hit wide to pull Dulaney within 12-11. After a side out, Segal had to serve because the Blazers had used their quota of substitutions and she netted her serve. Lawson then served the last four points as Costa took over at the net.
"We knew we could do it," said Blanchard. "We never doubted in ourselves that we had the ability to do it. That's why I tried my best to toughen up our schedule, playing Severna Park, scrimmaging Centennial, scrimmaging Mount Hebron, going to the Bulldog (tournament), but this is all them. The kids just believed in themselves all year long."
No. 1 Centennial 3, Francis Scott Key 0: The top-ranked Eagles swept Key, 15-8, 15-6, 15-11, for their fourth consecutive state championship.
Since 1989, Centennial (18-2) has won a state crown in every year but 1990 and 1995. The state record of nine volleyball titles are two more than Catonsville, Williamsport and Thomas S. Wootton, which are all tied for second with seven crowns each.
Centennial jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first game and never looked back.
Senior middle hitter Amanda Olsen recorded six blocks and four kills in the first game.