Not even a plucky performance by Adria Stonesifer could help the Francis Scott Key volleyball team.
Despite an eight-kill, four-block performance from the senior middle hitter, who limped around on an injured right knee, the fourth-ranked Eagles dropped a 15-9, 15-8, 15-10 decision to Monocacy Valley Athletic League nemesis Smithsburg in Union Bridge last night.
Not only did Francis Scott Key (4-1 overall and in the league) suffer its first loss of the season, but the setback also allowed the Leopards (6-0, 3-0) to leapfrog the Eagles and grab sole possession of first place in the league.
"Mentally, we weren't ready," said senior setter Carrie Ness, who contributed 29 assists and 10 service points. "This was our first competition, and I think we were too cocky. This will bring us down."
Another mental obstacle that seemed to affect Francis Scott Key was the limited play of Stonesifer, who injured a tendon in her right knee during warm-ups. The team's No. 2 player in kills refused to sit out and may not miss tomorrow's match against Joppatowne, but senior middle hitter Sam Stambaugh said the squad's confidence had deflated.
"It was awful," Stambaugh said. "Everyone seemed to be down. We've got to learn how to play with who we have."
Eagles coach Alice Rau also declined to attribute the loss to any one player, saying instead that the team couldn't find its offensive rhythm early.
"I think Smithsburg jumped on top of us, and we were not able to recover," she said. "We didn't know what to do when we were down."
Before last night's contest, Francis Scott Key had walloped its opponents by a combined 180-34. But the Leopards are a more polished team than the Eagles' previous four opponents, and it showed.
Although Francis Scott Key had a 2-0 advantage in the first game, Smithsburg won 13 of the next 15 points. Stambaugh blasted six of her game-high 16 kills to make it a 14-7 score, but the Leopards won the game on an unforced error.
The Eagles enjoyed another early 5-3 lead in the second game, but junior outside hitter and setter Michelle Feiser registered four slams, three assists, a block, and an ace to power Smithsburg to a 15-8 score.
In the final game, Francis Scott Key did cut a five-point Leopards' lead down to one, but Smithsburg went on a 6-2 run to seal the victory.
The Leopards' share-the-wealth philosophy worked to perfection as Feiser (11 kills), and junior middle hitters Lauren Richards (11) and Lauren Richards (10) each reached double figures in slams.