Glenelg senior Maddie Southern has envisioned this moment for years. As an eighth grader, she traveled to University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum to cheer on the Gladiators in the 2014 3A state championship match, which the Gladiators lost to North Hagerstown.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, when Southern found herself in a similar spot: in College Park for a state semifinal volleyball match. Only this time, Southern wasn’t a spectator. She was the captain and starting setter for a Gladiators team that, like they did four years ago, rolled to an easy semifinal victory.
“Ever since then, I’ve wanted to get to this court, I’ve wanted to get to this moment,” said Southern, who is no stranger to the big stage as a two-time state champion on the girls lacrosse team. “I think for all of us we can say that the nerves were kind of up a little bit, but we all just stayed focused and we stayed calm and we played as a team, which helped us be as successful as we were.”
Glenelg shook off any nerves in a hurry and ran through Hereford in straight sets, 25-15, 25-14, 25-13, in a 2A state semifinal on Tuesday night to advance to the state final for the first time since in four years and 10th time overall. The Gladiators (17-1) will play Williamsport, which beat Rising Sun in the other semifinal, at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 for a chance to win their first state championship since 2005 and fifth in school history.
Hereford (16-4), which was looking to advance to the state championship game for the first time since 1981, fell in the state semifinal round for the sixth straight year and 10th time overall.
Glenelg dominated defensively, just as it as done throughout the season, and the offense was consistent and balanced with Southern leading the charge. She spread the ball well to the tune of 31 assists to go with three aces, and junior outside hitter Maddie Myers led the team in kills with 11. Sophomore middle blocker Gracen Alsheimer added nine kills and Haley Rumsey had eight, and the Gladiators overall finished with 38 kills compared to just 17 for Hereford. Senior outside hitter Maggie May led the Bulls with seven.
Glenelg set the tone in a hurry and were never seriously threatened by the Bulls. It used a pair of 9-0 runs to pull away, and tied at 14, it put the pedal down and won 11 of the final 12 points to close out the set and put away any lingering doubt.
Winning that opening set has been the key for most of the Gladiators’ victories this fall, and Tuesday night was no different.
“The first set for us, I feel like we’re always really strong and we stay positive, and if we stay positive we will go far, and that’s just what we did tonight,” Myers said.
If the defense carried them through the first set, the offense shined in the second. Five kills and an ace put tut Glenelg in front, 7-3, and it never looked back, as it extended its lead to 11-5 and eventually 18-10. Myers had five kills in the stanza, and Southern helped close out the 25-14 set victory with a kill and three straight aces.
“All of the hitters were connecting with [Southern] really well,” Myers said. “... Everybody was communicating really well, and I think communication for us, we picked it up a lot in the second set. That’s what has brought us this far.”
The rout was on in the third set, as the Gladiators won 13 of the first 14 points behind six total kills and ace. Hereford never quit, however, and cut the deficit to 20-11 to force Glenelg coach Jason Monjes to use a timeout, but the Gladiators scored the next three points after the break and celebrated soon after.
Monjes said playing in the second game of the evening helped, as he brought the team early to watch the first semifinal between Williamsport and Rising Sun. It wasn’t as much for scouting as it was to get the girls familiar with how different it is to play in a big gym with an even bigger atmosphere.
“I know for them it’s a new experience,” he said. “... I wanted them to soak it in. I wanted them to enjoy the atmosphere. Start off from a spectator standpoint and really have them loosen up.”
Hereford coach Dave Schreiner said his team simply hadn’t seen enough teams of Glenelg’s caliber to hang tough. Still, he said it was a successful season as it won the Baltimore County championship and cruised through the 2A North region with three straight-set victories.
“We understand as a program that we still have a couple rungs on that ladder to climb to get to where we need to be to be neck-and-neck,” he said. “... We’re still not quite there yet. We’ve got a little ways to go.”