The Calvert Cavaliers may not pack quite the same punch as they did a year ago, when they went undefeated and won the Maryland 3A championship. On Tuesday night, however, they did not look ready to relinquish the role of champion.

Playing at Severna Park, the Maryland 4A runners-up last season, No. 4 Calvert recovered from a two-game deficit to win its season opener, 11-15, 10-15, 15-7, 15-5, 16-14.

The victory was the first under new coach Dave Redden, who took over a week before school started when Tim Horsmon departed for the top position at Robert Morris College in Pennsylvania.

"I'm old and I'm overweight, and games like this are going to give me a heart attack," Redden said. "And I don't need that. We came out flat. . . . Severna Park played fantastic. It was a great match. And I hope it doesn't happen again."

Calvert, undefeated during regular season play for each of the past two seasons, was taken to more than three games only once (by Westlake) in the 1998 regular season. Tuesday, the Cavaliers--led by seniors Kelli Bumgarner, Laura Fowler, Jen Peel and April Shields--never panicked, even after falling behind Severna Park (0-2) in the fifth game.

Trailing the Falcons, 14-7, Calvert won a side-out on a powerful kill by junior middle hitter Rachel Leitch. Out of substitutions, Redden had to stick with Leitch to serve, even though he had rotated her out of the service lineup throughout most of the match.

Leitch responded by serving eight straight winners, including two aces, to give the Cavaliers a 15-14 lead.

Severna Park returned Leitch's match-point serve on three hits, but Calvert sophomore Brittany Mister put away an outside set by Fowler for the game winner.

"I was so nervous serving," said Leitch, who had taken just seven serves in the two-hour match before the decisive rally. "I wanted to play it real safe. I just knew we couldn't allow them another opportunity. I've been working on the serve in practice, but I didn't expect to have to use it so much today."

What Calvert missed most Tuesday was the powerful outside hitting that graduates Amanda Ayres--the All-Met Player of the Year--and Kim Payne provided last season.

"That's what we're still searching for, and I guess a game like this really exploits that," Redden said. "Last year, we knew if we played defense and just got the ball to Kim or Amanda, they were going to put it away more than 90 percent of the time. We're struggling to find that one person right now, but we will."

CAPTION: Calvert High's Brittany Mister celebrates after scoring a point during the first game of a five-game cliffhanger with Severna Park on Tuesday.