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Girls Volleyball

The Baltimore Sun

Yes, you know the last name, and yes, he's her grandfather. Last night, however, Jillian Unitas made a name for herself.

The senior, who wore No. 19, was all over the court, contributing sets, digs, assists and kills as No. 3 St. Paul's defeated fifth-ranked Archbishop Spalding, 25-16, 25-19, 25-15, to win the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference volleyball championship at Villa Julie College.

The victory not only avenged the only regular-season loss for St. Paul's (19-1), but it also avenged a loss to the Cavaliers in last year's championship. It was St. Paul's second A Conference championship, the other coming in 2005.

"She's a great team player and all-around athlete," teammate Bailey Webster (25 kills) said of Unitas. "She's the leader of the backcourt for us, and she sets us up with some great passes."

Unitas played sparingly while nursing an ankle injury during the regular-season match with Spalding (15-3), but her presence in the lineup was evident when she dug several attempted kills by Spalding's Kelly Galligan (seven kills) early in the match to help St. Paul's start strong.

"We really wanted this," said Unitas (nine kills). "Ever since the loss, we've been working really hard. I think the difference was we played better defense and had better serve receive than they did."

Unitas said the Gators felt they had something to prove in the IAAM playoffs.

"We knew we were good and we had a bad game against them last time," said Unitas, a senior. "We wanted to come back and prove to everyone just how good we really were."

The Gators jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first game. Unitas and the rest of her teammates kept setting the ball to 6-foot-3 junior Webster, and she made Spalding pay at the net. The Cavaliers managed to narrow the gap to 21-16, but the Gators used the serves of senior Koran Bae to close out a 25-16 win.

Spalding got behind again in the second game but kept the score close. Leading 18-16, St. Paul's defense stepped up, and the Gators scored the next five points to run the score to 23-16. The Cavaliers responded again, cutting the margin to 23-19 before St. Paul's scored the final two points.

The third game was all St. Paul's, as the Gators rushed out to a 13-4 lead. After that, Spalding could get no closer than four points before Rachel Kelley (40 assists) served the championship point and bedlam erupted.

"Jillian is the heart and soul of our team," Gators coach Kelli Wilkinson said. "Her defense and passing helps Bailey [Webster] look as fantastic as she does. What she does for us is tremendous."

Spalding coach Scott Rombach said it wasn't bad play by his team but good play by St. Paul's that led to the title.

"They played extremely well," Rombach said. "Unitas and Webster are outstanding players, and you just have to tip your hat to them tonight."

In other games, Mercy defeated Lutheran, 21-25, 25-15, 25-20, 25-16, to win the B Conference Championship, and Annapolis Area Christian School beat Towson Catholic, 25-20, 25-18, 25-23 to win the C Conference title.

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