After winning a tireless, five-game battle for the Baltimore County volleyball championship on Wednesday evening, senior Maggie May said her coach Dave Schreiner called this victorious Hereford squad the best team he’d ever had.
Schreiner would at least concede this was the best match the Bulls had played all year.
“This is for the kids, you know?” he said. “We’ve been here a few times, our school hasn’t won a volleyball championship in a while. This is for the kids. This is what it’s all about.”
After dropping two games to Dulaney, Hereford refocused and resurged to take the match 3-2 and claim this year’s title.
For the Bulls, it has been a long sought after prize, and not just through Wednesday’s two-hour-plus slog. Hereford had fallen to local rival Towson the last two years. If they’d given it up to Dulaney, it’d be a cruel déjà vu, as the Generals had beaten Hereford in exactly the same situation last year.
But even though it wasn’t Towson, it still felt just as good, May said.
“It does, it does,” she said. “It’s kind of a little rivalry we have, Dulaney, Hereford and Towson.”
May lit the path for the Bulls with 28 kills, many in a pinch. Cindy Parker had 13 aces, including seven straight to begin the fifth and deciding game.
“Maggie served great, she hit the ball well. Cindy Parker did too,” Schreiner said.
It was Parker that gave the Bulls (13-2) the strong start to the first set, sending an ace — and the message — onto the floor to put Hereford up 1-0. May followed up with a swift kill and soon, the Bulls had six points up without a challenge.
The Lions bit back, led by kills from Rose Vail and Lisa Liu, but Hereford carried a consistent lead. May stepped in mid game, adding four-straight aces, and after teammate Emma Clark delivered an ace of her own, the 24th point, the Lions returned her second serve. Enter Autumn Meadowcroft — the Bull leapt up at the net, punched in the kill, turned to her squad and screamed.
Hereford would take game one 25-19.
“You can’t get complacent. I told them, after the first game we won, it doesn’t matter. That first game means nothing other than we won,” Schreiner said.
“Second game, I told them the same thing.”
Their strength didn’t diminish in game two, though Dulaney’s had grown. The two stayed mostly knotted up for the first half dozen points, before the Lions attempted to pull away. It wasn’t until Molly Blevins’ ace for the 14th point that Hereford caught up, though it would be a fleeting tie.
As Dulaney pulled within five points of winning game two, May stepped up. She countered every Lions point with her own kill, and the Bulls edged their hosts out, 25-23.
The Bulls crowd was elated. Maybe too much so.
“I think we made some mistakes in the third game. I really felt the third game, we wanted to come out and win. We wanted to get it over,” Schreiner said. “But we made some mistakes.”
Rather than allowing themselves to freefall into the sweep, Dulaney chose to stay alive.
Liu started things off with a kill, but the Bulls hit back. Soon, the two equalized one another, 15-15, 16-16.
So Liu just had to do it again. She nailed two aces and a kill to pad the Lions’ lead, which they carried to victory, 25-20.
Down 2-1, though, Dulaney had to keep pace. Rose Vail took the helm, peppering kills and aces on the court. Of course, the two were nearly neck-and-neck for the first 10 or so points for each. It wasn’t going to be easy.
But the Bulls had issues. The offense that had been near-dominant in the first two games became erratic, misjudging serves from their opponents to allow aces or misplaying them all together, letting them fall on the floor.
“I think I told them, ‘First of all, you can’t get tired mentally and physically. You got to fight through these things. You got to trust the training,” Schreiner said. “You can’t get upset with each other. You got to play as a team, you got to win as a team.”
May moved up to the front lines to try and salvage the set, firing five kills on Dulaney to keep them at 23 points.
“I try to get to every single person and tell them they’re doing a good job,” May said. “Take a deep breath. Start at our own pace, let’s bring it back.”
But the Lions were just too close and had too big of a lead. They took the fourth game, equalizing things, 25-17.
So Hereford made it clear how bad they wanted it.
“I think it was the anger from losing the third, fourth set,” May said.
Stone-faced, Parker served, and served, and served. Her aces smacked the floor uncontested, flew off the hands of the Dulaney defense into the bleachers or just hit the net.
The Bull delivered seven-straight aces. Hereford only needed 15 points to win the fifth game, and Parker had cut that deficit almost in half.
May called it a “jump-start.”
May hit three kills and an ace to push the Bulls forward; Parker had one of her own, surviving a long volley between the two squads that resulted in the 14th point.
The Bulls pushed on and clinched it, 15-9. They crashed into one another on the floor, euphoria pouring out from their screams.
“With every big opportunity comes a big challenge, and that’s what this is all about,” Schreiner said. “And I think they were up to the challenge.”