Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Howard would be competing in the 3A East regional playoffs. Howard will be competing in the 4A North playoffs.
For the second straight night, the Marriotts Ridge volleyball team found itself on the brink of defeat. And for the second straight night, the Mustangs battled all the way back.
After earning a comeback win over Wilde Lake on Tuesday night, the Mustangs celebrated their senior recognition night with a stirring 18-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-10 victory on Wednesday.
"This year they've just always had incredible heart," coach Amanda Olsen said. "They never stop. They never stop throwing themselves on the floor, they never stop fighting. I wasn't 100 percent sure that we were going to win, but I knew that we were going to be competitive and push to the very end."
Marriotts Ridge seniors Mikaila Fitzpatrick (15) and Allie Desmond (13) combined for 28 kills, and Desmond came through with the match winner.
"Our team is really strong," said Desmond, who also had three point blocks. "My adrenaline is all over the place. This was so much fun."
The Mustangs had been shut out by Reservoir earlier this season in straight sets.
"We didn't want that to happen again," Desmond said. "We knew they beat Glenelg yesterday ... we said we're going to come out and we're going to beat Reservoir. Nobody expected us and that's what made it ten times better."
Prior to the five set win over Wilde Lake on Tuesday, Marriotts Ridge had lost twice this season in five sets: to Wilde Lake and Howard.
"Fifth games are rough but winning fifth games is the greatest feeling in the world," said Desmond, who scored five of her team's last six points in the fifth set.
Seniors Julia Kim (25 digs, 5 aces) and Anna Geier (7 kills) also had big performances, as did juniors Molly Meininger (15 kills, 25 digs, 3 aces), Rachel Dubbs (54 assists) and Grace McCoy (8 kills).
"We played our hearts out and this means a lot for us going into the playoffs," said Fitzpatrick, who added 20 digs and played virtually every point of ten sets over two nights. "I was impressed by everyone, all of the seniors and all of the juniors ... we need some ice."
Maddy Belt had 22 kills and two aces for Reservoir. Sophomore Amaka Chuckwujekwu had seven kills and five blocks, and junior Diana Yuille added five kills and three blocks. Junior Sydney Lanham chipped in six kills, while senior libero Barbara Kelley was the foundation of the back row defense.
The two teams finish the regular season with identical 8-5 league records.
Reservoir will now do battle with county champion Glenelg (11-2) — along with Atholton, River Hill and Wilde Lake — in Section II of the Class 3A East regional playoffs, while Marriotts Ridge looks to be the team to beat in Section I of the 2A South. Howard, which also finished 11-2 but lost head-to-head to Glenelg in mid-October, moves on to the competitive 4A North playoffs.
"All season long we've been competitive with teams. At the end of every match we've said 'We played well and we fought hard and we did really good things but we lost the game and we need to work on finishing it'," Olsen said. "I think that last night and tonight will give us the confidence going into the playoffs that we can finish it and we can end up with the win."
Around the league
Glenelg 3, River Hill 1
Glenelg defeated River Hill in four sets to clinch the Howard County title. Sarah Girard had 24 kills and 27 digs in the victory. Rachael Girard had 34 assists and seven digs. Kristen Thesing compiled 23 digs, and Kara Crawford added six kills.
Hammond 3, Long Reach 0
Brianna Myers (7 aces) filled in at setter and gathered 14 assists. Shawnice King led the Hammond offense with 8 kills, followed by Lauryn Terry (6 aces) with six.
Howard 3, Atholton 0
The Lions finished the regular season 11-2, tied atop the county standings with Glenelg, which won their only head-to-head meeting.
Olivia Na tallied 15 assists, as Julia Skibniewska (8) and Sam Miller (7) combined for 15 kills for Atholton in the losing effort.
Miller also had 10 digs, and Madison Lim had seven. Hope Kelly added six digs and five kills.
Mt. Hebron 3, Oakland Mills 0
Wilde Lake 3, Centennial 0
The Wildecats swept the Eagles to finish in a three-way tie for third place with Centennial and Mt. Hebron.
Concordia Prep 3, Glenelg Country 1
Glenelg Country senior Alexis Foxwell had 11 kills, followed by junior Sarah Gibney with seven. Foxwell was 10-for-10 from the service line, and Gibney had 20 assists.
Final league standings
Mt. Hebron, 9-4
Wilde Lake, 9-4
Marriotts Ridge, 8-5
River Hill, 5-8
Oakland Mills, 1-12
Long Reach, 0-13
Chapelgate, 7-1 (IAAM B Conference)
Glenelg Country 4-3 (IAAM C Conference)