Rise to power: South River's Samanta Tarabella positioned for success

mmorea@capgaznews.com

For the past 20 years, if you wore the blue uniform of the South River Seahawks volleyball team, you knew that you would always be in the hunt for a county championship, and maybe even a region title.

South River has been close for so many years for both the county championship and a region crown, but earned its only county crown of this millennium in 2016.

The Seahawks earned the regular-season county championship this year, but fell to Arundel in the championship match. But 10 days later, South River earned its revenge by downing the Wildcats to do something it hadn’t done in 20 years — win a region championship.

The power on the team came from the arm of outside hitter Samanta Tarabella. The senior accounted for 246 kills, 242 digs, served 24 aces and added 12 blocks for a South River squad that finished 16-3 and lost in the state semifinals to eventual champion Northwest. Those accomplishments led to Tarabella being named the Capital Gazette Communications Volleyball Player of the Year.

“This recognition was somewhat of a surprise, but it feels really good to be recognized like this,” Tarabella said. “It’s nice to know that people, especially the media, sees me as a valuable player.”

Tarabella continues a legacy of players of the year from South River, following in the footsteps of recent winners Madison Carter in 2013 and Savannah Siegrist in 2016. Like both of those standout players, Tarabella finished a lot of points for the Seahawks, and kept a lot of volleys alive for the regular-season county champions.

“Samanta came into the program as a freshman and was powerful then and again as a sophomore, but she wasn’t able to contain her placement then,” coach Maureen Carter said. “But her junior year and this year, she became considerably more consistent with her placement of shots, which made her much more of a dominant player. Plus she played a great back row. She learned to read hitters so well and she was able to dig well. She always put herself in the proper position at all times.”

One of Tarabella’s more unseen traits on the court was her ability to keep her teammates loose. Whether it was cracking them up with a team inside joke or breaking them into an impromptu dance between points, it was mostly Tarabella that got things going.

“When Samanta got on the court, she was just being herself and was somewhat light-hearted.” Carter said. “Over the years, she learned to have fun with the game. She really kept her teammates, her friends, loose out there so they could play their best volleyball.”

That leadership quality allowed the team to overcome a late season loss to Howard so that the Seahawks could finish the regular season with a pair of wins to finish at 13-1. But in the county championship game, the wheels fell off for the Seahawks as they were humbled by Arundel, 3-1, to miss once again at a chance to secure the county title plaque for the South River trophy case.

After defeating Annapolis and Broadneck to win Section II, it was time to face Arundel again 10 days later. The Seahawks did not have history on their side, but squelched all of that to get revenge on the Wildcats by defeating them, 3-1, to earn that elusive Class 4A East Region championship and give Coach Carter her first region championship in her 24-year tenure at South River.

“There was definitely a big-time revenge factor going into that region championship game, especially since during my time at South River, we always seemed to play them in the region finals and always lost,” Tarabella said. “We just really wanted it so bad and it was on our home court. That was an advantage for us because we felt more comfortable there.”

But after the euphoria wore off of the school’s historic win, the reality set in that in order to lift the state championship trophy at Ritchie Coliseum on the campus of the University of Maryland, the Seahawks would face the three-time defending state champion Jaguars of Northwest High School. Unfortunately for South River, they were just a speed bump in the Jaguars’ road to their fourth straight state championship, as they fell 3-0 in the state semifinals.

For Carter, it was the way that Tarabella led that made her a special player.

“Samanta was a very good leader for this team,” Carter said. “She led by her play and her personality on the court, both in games and in practice.”

Tarabella is not sure if her future will have volleyball in it. She plans to study Biomedical Engineering and has applied to the University of Virginia, Penn State, Boston College and some others. If an opportunity comes from a Division III school to play volleyball, that could be her path.

Tarabella’s four years playing the sport at South River were challenging for the gifted hitter, but she walks away with some very fond and historic memories, as well as many other intangibles.

“I really appreciate everything my team and my coach did for me to make me the player I am. I really couldn’t have done any of this without them,” Tarabella said. “Plus a ton of thanks go out to my parents for all the support they have provided me. All the times they’ve had to take me to practices and games since I start playing volleyball at the age of 12. They’ve gone above and beyond what they should for my volleyball career.”

SECOND TEAM

Karen Bautista, Sr., Annapolis, OH

Sabrina Gleitz, Jr., Annapolis, OH

Grace Williamson, Sr., AACS, libero

Abrielle Scrivner, Jr., Arundel, MH

Aaliyah Griffin, So., Arundel, MH

Fiona Gonzalez-Medina, Fr., Arundel,

Madison Chadwick, Sr., Broadneck, libero

Emma Quandt, Jr., Broadneck, OH

Ally Fisher, Sr., Chesapeake, OH

Kexin Wang, Sr., Chesapeake,

Bryleigh Augustin, Glen Burnie

Sarah Hawes, So., Indian Creek, setter

Victoria Stewart, Sr., Meade, OH

Sabrina Sheppard, Jr., Northeast, OH

Camille Coryatt, So., Northeast, OH

Kirsten Workley, Sr., North County, libero

Rachel Beall, Jr., Old Mill, OH

Madi Mason, Severna Park

Savannah Doctor, Sr., South River, OH

Amanda Vigil, So., South River, libero

Jessica Chaney, Jr., Southern, setter

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