Glenelg volleyball coach Jen Beall tried yelling. She tried begging. She even tried motivational speaking, and still nothing was working.
The heavily favored Gladiators were playing flat, and they were in danger of losing to Worcester County's Stephen Decatur in the Class 2A state semifinals last night at CCBC-Essex.
Finally, she tried bribery.
"I told them if they'd suck it up and win, I'd buy them sweat pants," Beall said. "When we won regionals, I got them sweat shirts. Nothing else was working, so I figured I'd try to bribe them."
Never underestimate the power and the promise of sweat pants. The fifth-ranked Gladiators took Beall's offer and ran with it, rallying from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the Seahawks, 13-15, 15-8, 14-16, 15-7, 15-13, to advance to the 2A state championship game against No. 2 Towson at noon Saturday at CCBC-Catonsville.
"Hey, whatever works," Beall said afterward with a shrug.
The comeback, which came mostly behind the strength of 13 kills from Adrienne McGill and 12 from Sarah Tursell, saved Glenelg (16-3) from perhaps its worst passing performance of the season.
Stephen Decatur didn't have much of an offensive attack, but the Seahawks didn't need one for most of the night, as Glenelg consistently made error after error in its quick set offense.
"I think we were really intimidated by this gym and nervous about playing in the state tournament," McGill said. "It took us a while to settle down, and we had to show a lot of heart to come back like we did."
It almost didn't happen. Even when Glenelg slowed down the game significantly and played well in spurts, Stephen Decatur never let the Gladiators pull too far ahead.
After the two teams split the first two games, the Seahawks rallied from a 13-5 deficit to win the third game, 16-14, mainly thanks to solid play by Martina Collick, who led everyone with 22 kills.
"She's our hitter; she makes stuff happen," said Seahawks coach Bertha Ortiz. "I thought we did an excellent job with our effort all night. We hung around when maybe they didn't expect we would."
The Seahawks led 13-12 in the fifth game, but Glenelg clawed back behind Tursell and McGill, who got in sync with setter Tara Stradling at just the right time. Stradling finished with 46 assists and 20 digs, and set up McGill for an easy kill on match point.
"We had to put up a fight, that's for sure," Tursell said. "I think we all understand we have to play a lot better than this in the championship."