The No. 2 Calvert High volleyball team still is undefeated this season, and still has never lost to Patuxent in the four-year history of the schools' rivalry. But Thursday night at Calvert, both streaks came within five points of ending.
The Cavaliers won the first two sets from the eighth-ranked Panthers, dropped the next two and found themselves trailing, 10-5, in the deciding fifth set. But the Cavaliers scored 10 unanswered points and took the match, 15-13, 15-10, 9-15, 9-15, 15-10.
Calvert senior setter Laura Fowler said the Cavaliers were well aware of the fact that they had never lost to Patuxent, which started its varsity team three years ago.
"We knew we couldn't stop that tradition now," Fowler said. "It was a real big factor."
It was Patuxent's first loss in five games this season, but Coach Matt Poteet said his team made a statement.
"Obviously, we're disappointed we lost," he said. "On the flip side, we have established ourselves as one of the top-tier teams. Despite the loss, our program has stepped up to the next level."
Calvert's defense played a large role in the victory, Poteet said. Patuxent had 98 kills and only 15 bad hits in the match. Senior middle hitter Sarah Shisler had 35 kills for the Panthers, junior Mackenzie Garvin added 25 kills and sophomore setter Caitlin Sinclair had 35 passes.
This wasn't the first time Calvert had made a late rally this season. The Cavaliers trailed, 6-14, in the fifth set of its season opener against Severna Park. Calvert eventually won the match with a 16-14 fifth-set victory.
Sophomore outside hitter Mickey Gaetano helped lead the comeback against Patuxent, along with junior middle hitter Rachel Leitch, Fowler said. The Cavaliers, who won the Maryland 3A championship last year, lost many of last season's starters to graduation, so the emergence of young offensive players helps.
"I'm very impressed with [Gaetano] for the last couple weeks," Fowler said. "She's really improved. Whenever she gets the ball she puts it down. She knows what to do with it."
Northern's In-Depth Power
No. 1 Northern has lived up to its ranking, opening the season 6-0. The Patriots haven't dropped a set in any of those matches, including victories over Southern Maryland Athletic Conference opponents Westlake, Leonardtown and Chopticon.
Coach Beth Incrocci has been playing the second team in the third set to give the unit game experience. In practices, she said, the second-teamers have given the first team just as much trouble as any other opponent.
"Usually you expect your first team to easily beat your second team," she said. "That's why you have a first team and a second team. That's not the case this year. The first team has to work hard to get out of a drill and into a second rotation in practice."
Senior outside hitter Katie Radford is averaging about 13 kills a game, Incrocci said, and junior middle hitter Mattie Weber is averaging about seven. Senior setter Tera Blevins is "doing an amazing job getting balls to hitters," Incrocci added.
"I think this is the most balanced team I've ever had the opportunity to coach," she said.
Cougars Show Little Spark
About half of Thomas Stone's volleyball players were members of the Cougar softball team, which won the Maryland 3A South last spring. Those players include senior Erin Waltersdorff, sophomore Jessica Fallica and junior Kristie Pickeral--who is out with a fractured left ankle and will be reevaluated this week.
Linda Curry coaches both the softball and volleyball teams, and Thursday night she said she wondered whether the same players had different attitudes when it came to the two sports.
"They're a good practice team, [but] they can't play under pressure," she said, following her team's three-set loss to Westlake, which dropped the Cougars to 3-3 overall, 1-2 in the SMAC. "I have one or two that show some heart or emotion, and that's it. . . . If I could get that confidence and excitement that they have in softball, we could be a pretty good team."
One of the players Curry is pleased with is senior middle hitter Rachel Evans, who has improved her blocking and her hitting. But Curry said she is not sure how to motivate this team.
"They're not bad," Curry said. "They've got the skills. There's just no desire."