The beginning of the season is a great time to answer some questions about your team. One of questions for the top-ranked River Hill volleyball team was whether it could pick up where it left off last year. The answer seems to be a resounding yes.
The Hawks -- the Class 3A state runners-up last season -- used a balanced attack, led by senior Sarah Okey and junior Melody Nazari, and superior passing to defeat No. 3 Mount de Sales, 20-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-21, in the opener for both teams.
"Our serve-receiver was excellent tonight, and -- after the first game -- we varied our offense and kept them on their toes," said Okey (16 kills). "We came out with some first-game jitters, but we proved we have a talented and deep team."
The Sailors surprised the host Hawks early, using the serving of Chelsea Owensby to break a tie at 12 and build a 16-12 lead in the first game. Mount de Sales got key kills by Hannah Schmidt (11 kills, three blocks), a second-team All-Metro player last season, and Taylor Beaumont (15 kills, one block) to take the first game, 25-20. The loss seemed to awaken the Hawks.
"We got down on ourselves a little" in the first game, said Nazari (nine kills, six blocks). "After we focused, we came back nicely and showed the potential we have."
River Hill used a block by Nazari in the middle of the second game to take control. With the score tied at 7, she delivered a thunderous block after a long rally and ignited the Hawks, who scored 12 of the next 19 points en route to a 25-21 win.
"That block lit a fire under us, and it helped us to take off," said River Hill coach Lynn Paynter, who recorded her first win as a varsity coach.
The Hawks took a 3-1 lead in the third game and never looked back in a 25-17 win. River Hill dominated the start of the fourth game, using Nazari's serving to take a 7-0 lead. The Sailors cut the lead to three at several points but could get no closer before dropping the game, 25-21.
"They had some phenomenal passing tonight," Mount de Sales coach Monica Owensby said of River Hill. "Passing is all about communication, and they had great communication. They ran their offense well off of those passes."
The Sailors did a good job of blocking River Hill's Megan Rosburg (13 kills, six digs), a first-team All-Metro performer, but the offense generated by Nazari and Okey was key to the win.
"We proved we are more than one person. We proved we are a team," Okey said. "Volleyball is a team sport, and all the varsity experience we have on our team came through tonight."
River Hill d. Mt. de Sales, 20-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-21
Mt. Hebron d. Wilde Lake, 25-20, 25-17, 25-13
Severna Park d. Dulaney, 25-16, 23-25, 25-19, 26-24