Glenelg's volleyball team is one win away from running the table a second straight season after routing James M. Bennett, 25-12, 25-8, 24-26, 25-9, in last night's Class 2A state semifinals at CCBC-Essex.
The top-ranked Gladiators (18-0) will face No. 6 Liberty (17-0) in Saturday's noon final at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
Sun Player of the Year Tara Stradling continued her brilliance in the state playoffs over the past two seasons. Last night, the setter had a match-high 46 assists, a 17-for-17 serving night with two aces, 12 digs and five kills.
Stradling, who came into the match averaging 8.1 assists, got everybody involved.
"I think this team is better than last year's team because we get along better and work together as a team," said Stradling. "I would be very disappointed if we lost [in the final]."
In the hitting department, senior Michelle Morgan and 6-foot junior Rebecca Tursell dominated around the net. Morgan had a match-high 23 kills to go with three aces, while Tursell had 14 kills. Also, Stephanie Sims and Kelly Hollrah contributed 16 and 15 digs each, respectively. Sims also had a match-leading six aces and was 21-for-21 serving, and Karzai Shkala was 27-for-28 serving with three aces.
The Clippers, from Wicomico County on the Eastern Shore, used a slower pace than Howard County's Gladiators are used to facing. Still, Glenelg dominated the first two games. When Karzai served 11 straight points in the second game for 16-3 lead on the way to a 25-8 victory, a sweep appeared to be in order.
That is, until the Gladiators admittedly got a little lackadaisical. Bennett took advantage of several unforced errors by Glenelg and the hitting of their own Suzanne Hogg and Elizabeth Dolan (six kills each) to take the third game.
"They lost focus and lost their intensity in the third game and were maybe looking too far ahead, which is not characteristic of this team," said Glenelg coach Jennifer Beall, whose team was all business in taking the fourth game.
"That was a little bit unnerving. I would like our blocks to be a little stronger than they were tonight. But we're used to a quicker offense."
The Clippers had a lot of touches off the Glenelg blocks.
"We had to adjust and wait an extra second before we jumped," said Morgan. "They were hitting a lot of balls deep, and we are used to playing more in tight for quick balls coming down. We had to be ready for tips and touches. We really had to work at it."