As members of the Dulaney volleyball team collected their championship awards, Severna Park senior outside hitter Lauren Kirchenheiter stared at the Ritchie Coliseum ceiling, blinking back tears, hugging a runner-up plaque.
In her senior season, Kirchenheiter and her teammates went further than most expected. They emerged from the parity in Anne Arundel County and won their first region title since 2001. They cruised past Wootton and reached the Maryland 4A championship match.
But in this moment, it was hard for Kirchenheiter to remember any of that.
The Falcons missed seven serves and lost a tightly contested first set in the title match Saturday afternoon. Then they lost any semblance of momentum, falling to unbeaten Baltimore County champion Dulaney in straight sets, 26-24, 25-22, 25-20.
“There’s nothing that they did that surprised us,” Coach Tim Dunbar said of Dulaney. “We totally expected them to do exactly what they did. We just didn’t accomplish our task of doing what we wanted to do.”
Mistakes plagued Severna Park (17-3), which lost Saturday’s match by a total of 10 points despite committing 31 errors.
“We were getting into slumps, and we’ve been behind sets before. We’ve been down two [sets] and come back,” said Sophie Hoekstra, who led the team with 11 kills. “It’s irritating to not be able to come back on a team that we knew we could have beat if we played our game.”
The Falcons looked out of sync throughout the match, while Dulaney (20-0) showed intensity after coasting in its semifinal match Wednesday against High Point. The Lions knew that the championship match would not be so easy.
“Severna Park was a really good team, and we knew that coming in,” Dulaney setter Alexis Howatt said. “We were thinking that this is a good team, and we have to play our hardest and put everything out there on the court.”
Severna Park has already won state championships in boys’ soccer and field hockey this fall, and the volleyball team was eager to add to the trophy case. But for Dunbar, the fact that they came up just short doesn’t take anything away.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them. Win or lose, I’m going to feel the same way about this team,” he said. “Only two teams got to the state finals, and we were one of them.”