No matter what future teams at Western Tech do, the 2018 Wolverines will always hold the place in history as the first volleyball team ever to be a state finalist.
The No. 13 Wolverines (17-3) finished with the most wins of any other team, but it ended with a 25-14, 25-15, 25-13 loss to Clear Spring in the Class 1A state volleyball finals at the Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland, College Park on Tuesday night.
Western Tech was making its first appearance in the state championship game in its third visit to the final four.
They lost in the state semis in 2017 and 2011.
Clear Spring (14-7) was making its fourth appearance and first since they captured titles in 1994, after also winning in 1993.
Just like last year, when Western Tech lost in the state semifinals to Smithsburg, the Wolverines had early leads in each of the first three sets.
“I didn’t expect us to come out that strong every single set, although we did lose to them, but I’m really pleased with how we played, especially on defense,” said Western Tech junior setter Beatrice Daudelin, who finished with 11 assists.
A hitting error by Clear Spring, kill by Sheri Adewumi (four kills), off an overpass, and illegal lift, staked the Wolverines to a 3-0 lead in the first set with Daudelin on the service line.
After back-to-back service errors, the lead was 4-1.
Western Tech extended it to 7-3 on a tip by Jamiah Pilgrim, ace from Carley Boarman and another hitting error by the Blazers.
A block by Vallery Dean (eight kills) stemmed the tide for the Blazers and setter Annemarie Kinman (21 assists) went on a service run that netted four straight points and an 8-7 lead.
Kinman had an ace and Olivia Kirby (eight kills) had a kill during the run.
Rachael Durham’s kill tied the set at 8-8 and the junior admitted her team was fired up.
“I think it was mainly, we are here and that adrenaline rush, so it was just let’s just keep going, keep going, keep going, shake it off, shake it off,” said Durham, who had four kills. “But then, after the first set, it was a little bit more of a heavier burden to carry to try to shake off, so with each point that we were not doing what we should have been doing, it was kind of hard to let go, it was a little bit more on us.”
The first set remained deadlocked at 9-all and 10-10 before a kill from Dean, ace by McKenzie Slough and hitting error bumped the Blazers lead to 13-10 and forced a Western Tech time out.
Clear Spring proceeded to score the next three points and 12 of the final 16 for the 25-14 victory.
In the second set, Western Tech got a 2-1 lead on a long rally that included a diving one-handed dig by Adewumi and ended with a tip for a kill from Kieran Ray (team-high five kills).
Mackenzie Mooers kill, a hitting error and kill by Kirby made it 4-2.
Western Tech pulled within 4-3 after a missed serve, but they returned the favor with an errant serve and never got closer then two points the rest of the way.
Kirby had five kills and a block in the second set.
The Wolverines eased out to a 4-1 lead in the final set, highlighted by two kills from Adewumi and a kill and block from Ray.
After a missed serve, the Blazers got kills from Dean and Kirby, back-to-back aces from Jordyn Smith, block from Kinman and another ace from Smith for an 8-4 lead.
Following a service error, Boarman’s ace, Durham’s kill and a illegal touch tied the score at 8-8 before the Blazers got the ball back on a missed serve.
“Two kills from Dean gave the Blazers a lead they would never relinquish and Kylee McKenrich served out the final seven points of the match.
“Lets give a lot of credit to Clear Spring, they mixed things up as well, they changed things,” Western Tech coach Eric Jett said. “You can only play on emotion and intensity for so long if the other team starts earning their points and they did.”
The loss ended the careers of seniors Boarman, Pilgrim, Maya Thurston and Hafsah Ebahim, but Jett is eager to get started on his 19th season as head coach.
“Let’s go, let’s start practicing,” he said. “It was a dream for me to get to be a part of and to be their coach, so thank you guys. We have been gradually building and getting better over the last few years and we had the right mix of girls and we are starting to gain a little more experience.”
Boarman soaked in the reality of going to the state tournament two straight years and reaching the finals in her last season.
“It was very satisfying for it to be my senior season and to go this far and I kind of knew from the beginning of the season I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of not coming here,” Boarman said.
On the winning side, Clear Spring coach Jessica Custer talked about her team’s ability to overcome adversity after winning nine matches in a row and 11 of 12 after opening the season 3-6.
“This season has been based on believing in ourselves and believing that we could win and believing that we belonged on a big stage like this one and having the confidence to play under pressure with the mental resiliency that if we make mistakes it’s okay, and they certainly did that the past two games,” Custer said.