For Reservoir coach Carole Ferrante, Wednesday night felt like déjà vu.
In 2007, Ferrante led an upstart program to the school’s first state title in any sport, winning the Class 3A state volleyball title. On Wednesday night, she led a Gators team that did it again.
No. 2 Reservoir (18-1) used a dominating presence at the net and a power offense to outlast a scrappy Huntingtown (17-3) team from Calvert County in four sets — 25-18, 25-16, 20-25, 25-19 — and win the Class 3A state title at Harford Community College.
“The similarities between this team and that team are incredible,” said Ferrante, who left the program for a few years before returning as coach three years ago. “In 2007, we beat Huntingtown in the state tournament. This year, we beat Huntingtown. The 2007 team got a big transfer before the season (Tiffany Jacobsen), and we got another this year in Samiha [Foster]. They were both very close as teams. They even listen to the same music. Sometimes the similarities give me goosebumps.”
Foster, a West Virginia commit, led the Gators with 29 kills while setter Jessica Rothermel added 22 assists. Libero Gabby Allen, who has committed to Howard University, pitched in 17 digs.
The Gators won the title after surviving an ultra-competitive playoff bracket, which saw them defeat No. 13 River Hill, No. 6 Howard in five sets in the state quarterfinals and tournament favorite North Hagerstown in five sets in Monday’s state semifinals.
Against Huntingtown, Reservoir dominated the first two sets, pulling away in the middle of both to record 25-18 and 25-16 victories. Huntingtown had no answer for the Reservoir’s front line of Foster, Kelsey Holmes (11 kills) and Madison Hill (four kills).
Huntingtown fought its way back into the match in the third set. The Hurricanes took a 9-8 lead on a kill from Alyssa Nulhall (16 kills) and never relinquished it, winning the set, 25-20.
“We started noticing that a lot of their kills in the first two games were on the line, so we playing the lines,” Huntingtown coach Danesha Gross said. “I take nothing away from that team. They had some great hitters and they did a great job.”
Reservoir took a 5-4 lead in the fourth set, and some of the balls that were returned in the third set found holes in the Hurricane defense. The Gators coasted to a 25-19 win and their first state title in 14 years.
Foster, who transferred from St. John’s (D.C.) this season, was the missing ingredient in Reservoir’s title run. The senior provided timely kills throughout the season but also much-needed leadership. She said she always felt accepted from the very beginning at the Fulton school.
“Coming in, I was a little nervous,” said Foster. “I knew they were a great team, and it turned into a family. It was a great experience to come here and accomplish this.”