Glenelg coach Jen Beall runs a drill in practice that challenges her players to overcome deficits and prevail.
Last night, the No. 7 Gladiators showed that the practice paid off, rallying to defeat No. 11 Francis Scott Key in a five-set marathon, 13-15, 15-3, 15-8, 14-16, 15-11.
The win gave Glenelg the Class 2A West Regional title, which advanced the team to the state semifinals Tuesday at the CCBC-Catonsville. It also meant that the Gladiators (15-3) have defeated last year's state champion (Centennial) and runner-up (Key) in two consecutive matches.
"We were very loose, very relaxed [in the final game]," Beall said. "We had to come from behind, and I knew we could."
Trailing 11-9 in the final game, Glenelg tightened its defense while Melanie Mills, Tara Stradling, and Michelle Morgan hit service winners. For the rest of the game, the Eagles (14-3) didn't score.
Glenelg, perhaps still thinking about its emotional win against Centennial, came out flat in the first game. Key led 13-4 before the Gladiators rallied. By then it was too late.
The second game was all Glenelg, as the Gladiators ran out to an 11-2 lead and coasted to a 15-3 win.
Glenelg never trailed in the third game, either, winning that one 15-8.
Key jumped out to an early lead in the fourth game, but had to fight off a Gladiators' challenge to take the game, 16-14, and set up the decisive game.
"They were a very scrappy team," Mills said of Francis Scott Key. "We looked back at the Centennial match, and we knew we could come back and do it. We never gave up on ourselves."
Glenelg, which will make its third trip to the state tournament, has never won a state volleyball title.
For Key, the loss was a disappointment but not devastating.
"We lost five starting players from last year, and we've been to the state finals the past two seasons," said Eagles coach Alice Rau. "I told my girls that matches like this are what you play for. We had an excellent season, and I'm proud of all of them."
For Beall, the season has been very special. In her second season as coach, she has taken the program to new heights.
"I've had so much fun with them this year," Beall said of her team. "They really like one another, and I like being around them. Now, we'll go to the tournament and see how we do."