— Fallston hitter Shannon Webb summed up her team's performance perfectly after the Cougars defeated Montgomery County's Poolesville in the Class 2A state semifinals at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum Thursday night.
"We just made history," the senior said.
The No. 5 Cougars (18-2), who beat the Falcons (17-1), 25-8, 25-17, 25-19, will play for the school's first volleyball state championship when they face Marriotts Ridge, a 25-18, 26-24, 25-19 winner over Eastern Tech in the other semifinal, for the Class 2A state title. That game will be played at 6 p.m. Monday at Ritchie Coliseum.
"It's been an unspoken dream of ours since August 14 to win the state championship," said Cougars first-year coach Ali Winaker, a former player at Fallston. "I inherited a great team, and it's thrilling to see them execute like this."
How well did Fallston execute? The Cougars trailed for three points the entire match. They took control of the match early and never let up.
The handled the nerves better than we did," said Poolesville hitter Christine Antonsen (eight kills). "They came out ready to play and were the aggressor for the entire match."
The Cougars were lead by junior Rachael Holehouse (13 kills) and Webb (11 kills). The duo, which has led Fallston all season, kept the Falcons off balance with their aggressive attack and shifting defense. Holehouse especially seemed to frustrate Poolesville.
"She was a different kind of hitter than what we've seen this season," said Poolesville's Lauren Rocco. "We hadn't played anybody with that hard of an arm swing, and we weren't able to adjust."
Winaker said the chance to win the first volleyball title has driven the team the past few weeks.
"We have the ability to do something very special, something that's never been done," she said. "We have the ability to make history."
In the other semifinal, Marriotts Ridge (11-7) overcame a slow start to sweep Eastern Tech (16-3) and advance to the first volleyball title game in the six-year history of the school.
The Mustangs trailed Eastern Tech 10-1 in the first set before rallying to score 11 of the next 12 points and take a 12-11 lead. Eastern Tech did manage to tie the game momentarily, but the Mustangs closed the set out behind the strong serving of Meredith Krzys (21 assists) and Cara Koontz (10 digs).
Eastern Tech made a game of it in the second set, taking a 22-21 lead on Alexis Peay's kill. Again, the Mustangs responded, using a kill by Robin Laux and an ace by Samantha Johnson (seven kills, three blocks) to pull out a 26-24 win.
Marriotts Ridge took control in the third set and cruised to a 25-19 win.
"It's an amazing feeling going to the state [championship]," said Marriotts Ridge senior Shannon Lucas. "We are so excited, and you can bet we'll play our hearts out against Fallston.
Junior Danielle Cockey lead Eastern Tech with seven kills and 13 digs.
Eastern Tech coach Sarah Nugent said that as good as Marriotts Ridge was, her team's mistakes played a big part.
"We made some big mistakes for them," she said. "They have a good team, and you can't do that against a good team."