The state’s 3A volleyball classification was loaded with great teams because of the last realignment. Arundel, which moved down from Class 4A, was considered to be a favorite to win the state title after losing in the 4A final last year.
Somebody forgot to tell North Hagerstown. The Hubs from Washington County played a fundamentally sound match and took advantage of Arundel’s errors to defeat the top-ranked Wildcats, 25-23, 25-21, 25-23, to win the 3A state title at Harford Community College on Saturday.
It’s the second straight state title for the Hubs (19-1) and fourth overall.
For Arundel (18-1), the loss ends a stretch in which the seniors had a record of 63-3 over four years and a Class 4A state title.
“I’ll remember the closeness we had as a team, and the bonding we did,” said senior Taylor Johnson, who finished with 10 kills. “In spite of the fact that we lost today, it doesn’t take away what we’ve accomplished. We are still Arundel volleyball.”
The Wildcats fell behind early in the first set, then clawed their way back midway through. At times, it appeared that Arundel was its own worst enemy with many unforced errors.
Arundel used an ace by Kiara Harmon to take an 18-15 lead in the first set, but the Hubs used kills by sisters Caydence Doolan (16 kills) and Baylee Doolan (15 kills) to eventually tie the set at 21. Arundel took a brief lead on a kill by Myaih Parks at 22-21, but North Hagerstown scored four of the next five points to take the set, 25-23.
The Hubs carried that momentum into the second set, taking a 10-4 lead to again put Arundel on its heels. The Wildcats eventually had a service run behind Payton Swinton (5 kills) and Deviana Walker (10 kills) to cut the lead to 17-16, and then knotted the set at 20. Again, the Hubs got three kills from Caydence Doolan and Emily Gasaway (35 assists) down the stretch and won the set, 25-21.
The Wildcats played their best in the third set, taking a 5-1 lead and holding it until a block by Navaeh Ware tied the score at 11. North Hagerstown eventually took the lead for good at 16-15 and held a slim advantage the rest of the way before winning the set and the match, 25-23.
“I think we played well in little stretches of the game with our serving and our defense, but we could just never string those stretches together,” Arundel coach Ashley Yuscavage said. “They played a much more consistent match than we did.”
For the Hubs, who saw several Class 4A powers — including Arundel — drop down to 3A this year, the win was a vindication of how good a program the school has, and how Washington County is a volleyball powerhouse. All told, the county has won 41 state volleyball titles with wins by Clear Spring (Class 1A) and North Hagerstown on Saturday.
“We knew that if we could just come out and play our game then we’d be OK,” the Hubs’ Caydence Doolan said. “We were poised and we didn’t let the crowd rattle us. We graduated a lot of players from last year, but we believed in ourselves and each other. I think that was the biggest factor.”