The Class 1A volleyball semifinals were again a roadblock the Loch Raven Raiders couldn't get past.
For the third straight year, the Raiders fell one game short of the state title match, falling to Williamsport, 25-20, 25-12, 25-10 at CCBC-Essex last night.
The Wildcats, the 1A West champs out of Washington County, will play Montgomery County's Poolesville, a three-game victor over Perryville in yesterday's other semifinal, on Saturday at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum. Williamsport (18-1) will be bidding for a second consecutive state title and its 10th overall.
Loch Raven ended its season at 12-7 and chose to dwell on a strong late-season run and a 1A North regional crown rather than last night's loss.
"It was a long season, and we worked hard all year," said middle blocker Megan Battle, one of six seniors on the Raiders' roster. "All three years, we've been here [state semis]. We've tried so hard. It's just been fantastic."
Loch Raven began its season 0-6 before winning 12 straight to get to the state semifinals. Last night, however, the Raiders ran into an opponent that hadn't lost a non-tournament match all season and that had dropped just one game all season.
Williamsport proved to have too much firepower: Senior middle hitter Kris Weir had nine kills, and Lindsey Plotner added five kills and three blocks.
Loch Raven got seven kills from Battle and three from senior Ashley Mertens. The pair, along with setter Laura Queen, kept the Raiders in it early, but errant serving - the Raiders had 14 service errors to the Wildcats' six - was too much to overcome.
"We are a great serving team, and that's what got us here," said Loch Raven coach Cary Lyon, whose team missed seven serves in Game 1. "But it abandoned us tonight. We started well, but our passing and serving abandoned us, and you can't overcome those things."
In Game 1, Loch Raven trailed only 11-10, but the Wildcats took eight straight points on Plotner's serve and eventually the game with a Sammi Snodderly kill.
Errors plagued the Raiders in Games 2 and 3, never allowing them to build any momentum. The Wildcats sewed up their spot in the final on a Plotner kill on match point.
"The seniors are crying, because it's all over for them," said Lyon. "But they are a proud group."