If there’s one word to describe this year’s edition of the Mount de Sales volleyball team, it’s resiliency.
After a sluggish start in the first two sets, the host and third-ranked Sailors asserted themselves in the third and fourth sets to defeat rival Archbishop Spalding, 26-24, 25-27, 25-15, 25-9 in a key Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference game.
Mary Grace Goyena had 27 kills to lead Mount de Sales. Spalding was led by Jacey Lewis’ 14 kills.
The Sailors (10-1, 9-0) won despite not having super freshman hitter Kelenna Onukwugha, who was injured in practice on Monday. Last week, Goyena, a two-time Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro player, was sick, and they won then, too.
“I guess that says something about us,” said Goyena, a junior, who has already committed to the University of Pennsylvania. “We had a rough start in the first two sets, and we weren’t connecting. In the third set, and especially the fourth, we started coming together as a team.”
The Sailors took a 21-17 lead late in the first set, but Spalding rallied. The Cavaliers even took a 24-23 lead, before Mount de Sales scored the last three points to take the set 26-24, with the winning point coming on Sara Fleckenstein’s kill.
Spalding rallied to take the second set. The Cavaliers (5-5, 5-4) had a 22-18 lead, before Mount de Sales made a run. With the set tied at 25, Spalding got a point on a tip kill and a service error to tie the match at one set apiece.
Mount de Sales made some adjustments in the third set, and they began to pay dividends.
“We started covering their tips better [in the third set],” Sailors coach Gary Troy said. “They also were scoring points down the line, so we moved out defense a little.”
The adjustments led to the Sailors taking a 15-6 lead, before coasting to a 25-15 win in the third set.
In the fourth set, Mount de Sales played even better. Freshman Libero Mollie Penn served 11 straight points for a 23-5 lead.
“I thought our serve receive could have been cleaner in the first two sets, but we started connecting in the last two sets,” Penn said. “We started playing with more energy.”
The Sailors, the two-time defending conference champions, have beaten everyone in the conference once, and Spalding twice. They have only a loss to then-No. 1 Broadneck in a nonconference match as a blemish on their record.
“It’s our goal to go undefeated [in the conference], so this was a big win against a good team,” Penn said. “We have a few things to work on still, but I feel like we are getting better.”
When asked if his team was where he wanted it to be, Troy didn’t hesitate and said so.
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“We have to work on our passing. I like what I saw today, but you saw a different team when we started passing. We’re getting there.”