Top-ranked Flint Hill turns back Good Counsel

By Matt Brooks
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, October 29, 2010; 4:37 PM

In match many expect was a preview of the volleyball City Championship, top-ranked Flint Hill and No. 4 Good Counsel delivered riveting drama befitting two of the area's top two programs. When it was over, the Huskies had spoiled Good Counsel's senior night with a four-set victory that left fans eagerly awaiting a possible rematch Nov. 8.

Having lost the opening set to Good Counsel and facing their toughest test of the season to date, the Flint Hill grabbed momentum midway through the second set and built a commanding 22-13 lead. But three points from allowing the Huskies to even the match, the Falcons began a torrid 10-0 run to tie the set and threaten to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

All of a sudden, the combination of power and placement on the attack that helped the Huskies build their lead vanished as senior hitter Marilyn Peizer hammered a pair of kill attempts beyond the baseline and out of play. But with Flint Hill in danger of falling into a two-set hole, senior setter Taylor Nelson dropped a deft little dump into an opening in the Good Counsel defense to snap the Falcons' run. Two points later, the Huskies claimed the second set and from there they had just enough firepower and poise to take the next two sets and secure a thrilling four-set victory, spoiling Good Counsel's senior night and remaining unbeaten with a 21-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-18 win.

"Sometimes in volleyball you'll get stuck in one rotation," Peizer said of the second set. "Either a great server is on or you're making errors, but you've got to find a way to play yourself out. We made it a point for the rest of the match to get one point side outs and make sure they're not getting four or five points on a serve-receive. Because you can't have those kinds of runs against a good team like them or they'll take you."

Flint Hill (27-0), by virtue of its Independent School League regular-season title, is already assured of a berth in the City Championship. The Huskies, who beat the Falcons in last year's City match, will meet the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament champion. Good Counsel is the WCAC favorite.

After sitting through Good Counsel's senior night ceremony, the Huskies came out flat and quickly fell behind in the first set. Trailing by as many as seven points, they rallied to pull within 20-23 but the Falcons held on to take the opening set before a raucous home crowd. In the second set, Flint Hill flipped the script, building a big lead before watching it slip away late. They played with a lead throughout the third set but had to come from behind once again in the fourth before a run of nine consecutive points on Peizer's serve helped put the game away. Fittingly, it was Peizer herself who teamed with senior middle Terran Bargeron for the final stuff block on Good Counsel senior Francesca Emanuele to end the match.

"There were several times in the match where we got stuck, but the thing that makes this team great is that we don't let that knock us over," Huskies Coach Carrol Anderson said. "We some how find a way to get out of those ruts. And it's not just one person. It was someone different for us every time we needed a spark."

Coming into the match, the Huskies had dropped only two sets all season while the Falcons had only dropped six. Peizer led the way with 24 kills - with seven coming in the decisive fourth set - and Virginia-bound senior Tori Janowski contributed both on the outside (12 kills) and at setter (19 assists). And on a night when Flint Hill struggled with serve consistency, senior Meaghan Stertzer stepped up with 17 service points.

On the other side of the net, senior libero Stephanie Minite was tremendous digging big hits from Flint Hill's front line and her defensive effort helped neutralize Janowski's imposing jump serve for much of the night. Offensively, the Falcons (19-3) hung in every game with balanced production from senior hitters Meagan Donohoe, Maeve Drummey and Emanuele off consistent setting from junior Jennifer Morrissey.

"Every set going back and forth like that, I can't ask for anything more than that," Good Counsel Coach Karen Kart said. "We fought for every point every time - both teams did - and that's rare that you see that in high school volleyball."

Said Peizer: "It fired us up to win this, but I know that it fired them up even more, because this was their senior night. They played well and we're both continuing to get better, so if we see them again, I'm sure it'll be another great match."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company