COLLEGE PARK – The wait is over for the Severna Park volleyball team.
Twenty-one years after their last state championship, the Falcons won their sixth title on Monday with a 25-14, 25-19, 22-25, 25-13 victory over Northwest at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
Severna Park (20-0) won the first two sets, then watched Northwest gain some momentum with a 25-22 victory in the third. The Jaguars scored the first point of the fourth, but the Falcons scored the next five and never trailed the rest of the way in winning the state title after falling to Dulaney in last year's state final.
"It's pretty satisfying to win a state championship after losing one last year," Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar said. "These girls really buckled down and played a smart match. At times when they weren't playing their best, they still found ways to make the points, and that's all you can ask for in a match like this."
When the Falcons fell to Dulaney in last year's final, they struggled with their serving. That same scenario appeared to be playing out again on Monday, as the Falcons had five service errors in the first set. They were much more improved over the final three sets and missed only five more while serving seven aces.
Sophie Hoekstra, one of four seniors, led the Falcons with 19 kills, 15 digs and two blocks and went 11 for 13 serving with an ace to close her career with a championship.
The volleyball team is the third fall sports team to win a state title this year at Severna Park, joining the cross country and field hockey teams. The boys soccer, cross country and field hockey teams also won in 2013, but the volleyball team was unable to add a fourth state title in the season.
"What I like about it is this year we came back and we did it," said Hoekstra, who will continue her career at Bryant University in Rhode Island. "They can't talk about us anymore because we won."
Hailey O'Mara added 10 kills and 12 digs and was 15 for 17 serving with an ace and Tara Register also added 10 kills, including one to clinch the match.
As the ball fell to the floor following Register's hit, Dunbar jumped out of his seat, let out a big smile and hugged assistant coaches Lauren Boyd and Emily Creighton.
"Getting that last point was even more special for me," said Register, who added nine digs and two blocks and was 12 for 14 serving. "It was thinking of tipping it just to play it safe, but I just hit. When I saw it fly away, I was like, 'OK, we're done.'"
Dunbar won three straight state titles from 1991-1993 in his first tenure with the Falcons. His four state titles ties him with Romonzo Beans for most by a coach in the county. Severna Park's six state titles moves it into a tie with three other teams for seventh most in the state.
"It's always fun to win and enjoyable to feel like you've reached the goal," said Dunbar, who's also coached Bryn Mawr to an IAAM title. "But, at the same time, I don't think I coach any differently in terms I feel like I have to win. I'm not winning, they're the ones who are winning. Yea, it's a long time between, but all those other seasons my goal is always to get the team to perform as well as they can. Then, win or lose, you can walk off the court saying we did the best we could and the other team just beat us because they were better."
Mary Smith added seven kills and three blocks to join Hoekstra, Hannah Krauss and Elizabeth Baden who closed their careers with titles. She had five of her kills in the first two sets to help the Falcons run out to the quick lead.
Morgan Kline, who had 32 assists in the state semifinal victory over Sherwood, added 44 more on Monday and also went 19 for 22 serving with a team-high four aces. She also added five kills, most coming on setter dumps against an un-suspecting Northwest defense.
"I was watching video the other night and I saw holes all over the court," Kline said. "If they're going to leave it open, I will exploit it."
The Falcons shook off five service errors to take the first set, 25-14. Severna Park scored 15 points off kills, including six from Hoekstra and four from O'Mara.
Similar to its semifinal victory over Sherwood, the Falcons fell behind in the second set and used the serving of Shannon Fletcher to get back in it. After a side out cut Northwest's lead to 12-8, the Falcons scored five straight points off Fletcher's serve to go up by one. Northwest tied the set on a kill from Janiece Jefferies, but Hoekstra and Fletcher each had two kills down the stretch to give the Falcons a 25-19 victory and move them one step closer to the title.
Fletcher, who finished with six kills and seven digs and went 16 for 17 serving with an ace, served 10 straight points in last Wednesday's state semifinal victory over Sherwood to give the Falcons a 20-16 lead after they had trailed by as many as six.
Northwest refused to quit and won the third set, 25-22. It was just the third set the Falcons lost all season and, at the time, turned the momentum into the Jaguars' favor.
"They were solid all the way around," Northeast coach Stephanie Blake said. "They had so many solid hitters and they could go to any of them. They were just a really good team, and we knew that going in."