For the second straight year, the Towson High volleyball team rallied from a deficit against the same Hereford opponent and captured the Baltimore County championship on Wednesday night.
The visiting No. 13 ranked Generals (14-2) defeated the No. 7 Bulls (13-3) 24-26, 25-19, 22-25, 26-24, 15-7 after trailing by a set after the first three sets.
The two-time county champions rallied to win last year after losing the first two sets.
Senior Sara Mandreja led the Generals with 23 kills, including four in the fifth set.
“She wants to have the team on her back,” Towson coach Emily Berman said.
Mandreja also had eight digs.
Freshman Bria Kahnert had 11 kills and five blocks and senior Tyanna Butler had six blocks.
Logan Marsh had 39 assists and Genevieve Schwanke had nine digs and her three straight aces closed out the match.
Hereford was led by strong hitting from Maggie May (28 kills), McKenna May (10 kills) and Haeven Henderson (7 kills) and solid serving by Maggie May (9 aces) and Sierra Webb (7 aces).
“This is how the county championship should be,” Berman said. “It’s the two best teams battling it out.”
“I take my hat off to Towson,” Hereford coach Dave Schreiner said. “We wanted to win, but you have to congratulate the other team because they did a great job.”
Hereford won the first set, but Towson proved they were resilient when they rallied from 22-16 deficit to tie the score at 22-22.
Mandreja had four kills during the comeback.
The game was tied at 23-all and 24-24 before Hereford secured the final points on a kill by McKenna May and hitting error by Towson.
Mandreja’s four kills, a kill and block by Kahnert and kill from Butler staked Towson to an 11-6 lead in the second set, but strong serving by Webb helped the Bulls erase the deficit and take a 15-11 lead.
Webb served eight straight points and had four aces during the run.
Towson trailed 17-14 when Butler seized control of the middle of the court.
Butler had a kill that put Claire Beaudry on the service line and she won the next two points with blocks to tie the score at 17-17.
Towson bumped the lead to 22-17 on a pair of kills by Mandreja, ace by Beaudry and block by Butler.
Towson scored eight of the final nine points to win the set, 25-18.
“That blocking was phenomenal in that second set and then again in the fourth set when we got behind, Schreiner said. “If they are going to block that well for three games, four, games, five games, we’ve got to go with what we do best and that’s keep swinging away.”
In the third set, the teams were tied 21-21 when Hereford scored two points with Maggie May on the service line.
After a kill by Kahnert made it 23-22, Hereford’s McKenna May ended it with a pair of kills.
The fourth set was similar to the first in that one team made a furious late comeback only to fall short in the end.
Towson did it in the first and Hereford did it in the fourth.
The Bulls trailed 23-15 when they scored eight straight points.
Setter Erica Hilse was on the service line after a kill by Sofie Benson got her the ball.
Maggie May had four kills and Henderson’s kill knotted the score at 23-23.
Towson finally broke the drought after a hustling dig by Schwanke led to a kill by Mandreja, but another kill by Maggie May made it 24-24.
Kahnert kill’s from the middle gave the Generals the lead and her final kill trickled off the top of the net and gave the Generals the victory.
“The fourth game was the key. It was 23-23, 24-24 and we just needed that break that we didn’t get,” Schreiner said.
In the fifth set, Hereford led 3-1, before a pair of Mandreja kills, sandwiched around a pair of aces by Butler, pulled Towson ahead, 5-3.
A kill by Maggie May and block by Henderson pulled the Bulls even, before the Generals scored three straight points with Marsh’s ace making it 8-5.
Towson scored seven of the final nine points and closed the match with three aces by Schwanke.
“They are a great team. We go to five sets every time, every year and to beat them for the county championship for the second year in a row is amazing,” senior setter Marsh said.
In the regular-season meeting that the Generals lost in five sets, Towson scored 106 overall points and Hereford had 103 points, but too many points came on errors and that didn’t sit well with the Generals.
Towson corrected that this time.
“We’ve been working a lot on minimizing our unforced errors in practice,” Marsh said. “You can always work on everything, but passing has to be consistent to run a great offense.”
That offense often included a set from Marsh to Mandreja and points scored by Mandreja often had her coach in awe.
“Some of the things she does are inhuman,” Berman said. “She goes up for a ball and it doesn’t go down and she goes up for a second one and it doesn’t go down and a lot of kids at that point would give up and she goes up for a third one and makes sure it goes down.”
When Mandreja’s hits go down, as they did in both matches against Hereford this season (42 overall kills), it makes her coach less anxious.
“Both teams are evenly-matched,” Berman said. “It’s fun, but it’s very stressful too, but it’s good volleyball.”