College Park--Bel Air’s bid for a first girls volleyball state championship ran into a big-time block Tuesday night at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
The Bobcats were swept 3-0 by the Atholton Raiders in the Class 3A state title match. Set scores were 25-16, 26-16 and 25-15.
Atholton, the state champ in 2016 and a state runner-up a year ago, closed out a perfect championship season at 19-0.
The Raiders were, too, good at the net as well as from the back row. They also seemed to return almost every shot the Bobcats sent across the net.
“They [Atholton] had really strong defense, they picked up everything we were putting over,” Bel Air coach Elizabeth McCourt said. “They were very quick, that gave us some trouble tonight.”
That trouble started early and seemed to carry on throughout the match. McKenna Reiswig’s tip kill was Bel Air’s first point, cutting an early deficit to 2-1. Quickly, though, the Raiders pushed the lead to 11-5 and the Bobcats called timeout.
“They were attacking from the back row a lot, which we haven’t seen a lot this season,” senior hitter Megan Hoy said. “I feel like that kind of threw us off, so I feel like our defense was lacking a little bit. Number four [Lisa Zoch] was swinging a lot from the back row and I just don’t think we were expecting that.”
It was Zoch that led the winners with 14 kills, with nearly half coming from the back row. Zoch also showed her defense with a team-best 14 digs.
The play of Atholton’s junior middle blocker Chanelle Smith and sophomore hitter Ryan Roris was equally tough. Smith added four kills and a block and Roris had nine kills, eight digs and a block.
Still, Bel Air tried to overcome the strong play of Atholton, but it wasn’t to be. Reiswig, a junior and the Bobcats tallest player at 6-3, had three of her team leading seven kills in that first set. “They had very strong middles,” Reiswig said.
Reiswig’s third kill pulled the Bobcats to within seven, 16-9, but they got no closer in the nine-point, first set loss.
The Bobcats had their first lead, a 2-0 lead, to open set two. That lead, which climbed to 5-2, was erased by a six-point Atholton run. Sabrina Lagomarsino, a senior setter, came off the bench to serve consecutive aces as part of the run.
The Raiders 8-5 lead forced the Bobcats to call another timeout. A kill from senior Brooke Myers had the Bobcats within four, 15-11, but a 7-4 Atholton advantage boosted the score to 22-15 and the Bobcats used another timeout, now trailing, 22-15.
The Raiders scored three of the next four points to close out set two. Unlike last week’s semifinal come-from-behind win, the Bobcats had no comeback. “I don’t think any of us were thinking, like, the game’s over, but we just knew that we were gonna have to do a lot more in order to come back,” Hoy said. “I feel like we were all like, let’s go out there and give it our all and whatever happens, we should be happy with the outcome as long as we tried our best and gave it our all.”
Bel Air scored the first point in the final set and that advantage was short-lived. The Raiders reeled off six unanswered points and with a pair of additional three-point runs, had set three under control with a 12-4 lead.
The Bobcats never got any closer than eight the rest of the way as Atholton completed the three set sweep.
“I feel like we were like a lawnmower, we just plowed through,” Raiders senior libero Elise Park said. “Nothing stopped us, everything that they did we adjusted. We focused on our side and we did our job.”
For Bel Air, Hoy finished with four kills and three digs, while Myers had three kills and one dig. Olivia Simon (11 assists, eight digs) and Madison Reagan (two digs) each had two kills.
Reiswig added three digs, while Radhika Patel had 10 digs and two assists and Sarah Markland had four assists and nine digs. Simon and Julianna Harden each served an ace.
“Even in the face of a loss tonight, I still couldn’t be more proud of my girls,” Bel Air coach McCourt said. “The worked hard every single point, they kept fighting to the last point and they had one amazing season.” The Bobcats season ends at 17-3.
Reach Randy McRoberts on twitter. @aegissports