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High School sports

In back-and-forth thriller, No. 1 Arundel volleyball holds off No. 3 Reservoir in five sets

Last season, both Arundel and Reservoir won state titles. Tuesday night in Gambrills, they met to see who would blink first. Advantage, Wildcats.

In a battle between Baltimore-area powerhouses, host and top-ranked Arundel took an early lead in the fifth set and held on to defeat No. 3 Reservoir, 25-23, 20-25, 25-15, 22-25, 15-13, in a key early-season litmus test for both teams.

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How close was the match? Well, no team had more than a 10-point lead in any set, and that was only once. For most of the five-set battle, the lead was within two or three points.

Senior Audrey Owens led the Wildcats with 17 kills, while Kelsey Holmes paced Reservoir with 15 kills and 11 digs.

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“We knew this would be a challenge for us, and they certainly were,” said Arundel coach Ashley Yuscavage. “A lot of these girls play with each other, and against each other, in club volleyball, so there is some familiarity there. That was a great team we beat tonight, and they certainly pushed us.”

Arundel, the winner of the last two Class 4A state crowns, was dominant in the first set. The Wildcats came out the fresher of the two teams, using two blocks and a kill by Kiara Harmon to run out to a 10-4 lead and force a timeout by Reservoir. The Gators, who captured last year’s 3A state title, responded later in the set, cutting the margin to 21-20, forcing Yuscavage to call a timeout of her own.

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Arundel responded after that, outscoring the Gators 4-3 to take the set, 25-23.

Reservoir went on the run in the second set. Trailing 11-4, the Gators used the serving of Holmes to score 10 unanswered points, a streak that included five consecutive aces by Holmes. Reservoir widened the lead and eventually took the set, 25-20.

Arundel took an early lead in the third set and never looked back, using five kills by Owens.

The Gators responded again in the fourth. They took the early lead and then held off several runs by the Wildcats. The score was tied at 16 when Reservoir got kills by Maddie Beckett, Elsie Ihediohanma and Madison Hill to go on a 9-6 run and force a decisive fifth set.

With the set tied at 4, Bella Talley put down a kill and an ace, Payton Swinton did the same and Harmon added a kill to put Arundel ahead, 10-5. Reservoir used a kill by Destiny Olamide and a net violation by Arundel to cut the margin to 13-10. After an ace by Reservoir’s Mayah Tucker, Tucker committed a service error to make it 14-12. Holmes’ kill cut it to 14-13 before Swinton put the game away with a kill.

“Oh, the lessons we learned in this match,” said Reservoir coach Carole Ferrante. “We need to work on closing the block, and on just being smoother on the court. It was a great match between two great teams, and I take nothing away from Arundel. They played very well, but I was proud of us, too. We just kept fighting.”

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“We really executed when we had to,” Owens said. “We knew they would be good, so we worked on our serve receive to prepare. It paid off for us tonight.”


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