In her 11 years as Catonsville High's head volleyball coach, Amanda Kaufman's Comets had never beaten Dulaney.
That changed Tuesday evening when the host Comets (5-1) defeated the No. 11 Lions 25-22, 25-20, 25-21.
“I am so proud of the girls. I couldn’t be more excited and the six seniors on the team they deserve it more than anyone else," said Kaufman, noting her team has only captured one set in those previous 10 seasons. "They have worked hard.”
Senior Mitra Harrison led the attack with 13 kills and seniors Kateri Wess (three aces) and Amber Lally (three aces) and junior Nicole Beautz (two aces) led aggressive serving and passing games that allowed senior setter Catherine Ott to control the offense.
“I think the defense really played hard," Lally said. "We really went out there and we were really focused and we just kept the ball off the floor.”
Senior middle hitters Madi Burinsky and Jenna Wallace also contributed with key plays at the net and junior Kelly O’Keefe contributed with five kills.
Dulaney (3-2) was led by the hitting of MyKayla Milchling (11 kills) and Kayla Anderson (five kills).
“The bottom line is they performed and we did not,” Dulaney coach Cary Lyon said. “They were smarter with their defense. When they would dig the ball up they were doing something smart. We would try to do stuff instead of just getting it back sometimes.”
Kaufman was confident in her team’s passing and serving from the outset.
“Once the game started I wanted the girls to move their passes around and serve aggressively and they were able to get aces off of it and free balls back,” Kaufman said.
Catonsville set the tone with precision defense in the first set anchored by libero Wess, Lally and Beautz.
“They did hustle and they didn’t miss a pass,” said Lyon, whose squad won a state title in 2013 when they went 20-0.
“Kateri has moved into fulltime libero this year and she has excelled beyond what I ever expected her to,” Kaufman said.
Catonsville took advantage of six Dulaney service errors in the first set and led 20-18 before the Lions rallied with four straight points,
Anderson served an ace before being replaced on the service line by Sydney Schultz.
Milchling’s tip made it 20-20 and the Lions pushed the lead to 22-20 after a missed Comet hit and kill from Milchling.
The Comets got the side out on a missed serve and won the final four points behind the serving of Lally for a 25-22 win.
Harrison had a kill that tied the score at 22-22 and a missed communication led to another point.
After a Dulaney time out, Burinsky’s kill was followed by Lally’s ace.
“Our serving is probably one of our strong suits on the team and I think our serving really helped us out this game,” Lally said.
Catonsville showed its resiliency in the second set when they rallied from a 10-5 deficit.
They were sparked by aggressive serves and they came in bunches.
Wess and Beautz each had back-to-back aces as the Comets outscored the Lions 10-2 and built a 15-12 lead.
Dulaney rallied to tie at 18-18, but the Comets scored the next four points, with three coming on kills from Harrison.
Middle hitter Burinsky also had two digs while serving 5-for-5 during the run.
"She did a good job and played some solid defense in that back row as well,” Kaufman said.
The Comets closed out the 25-20 win on a quick set from Ott to Wallace in the middle.
In the third set, the Lions led 20-19 before Ott dumped a pass over the net for a kill to tie it at 20-all.
With Burinsky on the service line again, the Comets got a tandem block from Wallace and Ott for a 21-20 lead and added another point on a Dulaney error.
The Comets got their final three points on kills from Harrison.
“Everyone stepped up and did their job today,” Kaufman said. “They kept the ball in play and they got kills when it mattered.”