After Northern's Devin Karcesky finished off Calvert's volleyball team with a block in the third game on Thursday, among those who quickly flooded the senior middle hitter with congratulations were her three younger sisters.

On the surface, that seems typical. But her sisters weren't sitting in the stands, dutifully rooting for their sibling's team. They were on the bench and in uniform for No. 1 Northern in the Patriots' 15-2, 15-10, 15-6 victory over No. 2 Calvert--the defending Maryland 3A champion.

Joining Devin on the varsity roster for Northern this season are sisters Gretchen, a junior outside hitter, and Cory, a sophomore defensive specialist and setter. Cory's twin sister Casey played in Northern's junior varsity victory over Calvert earlier in the afternoon.

No one cheered louder for Devin's winning block than her three sisters. The opportunity to play together has only tightened the sisters' family bond, they said.

"I like it. I always look forward to seeing them," Cory said. "You get along different with your sisters. It's different than just another teammate. You get more out of your sister. When she says something [supportive] to you, it means a lot more."

In practice, Northern often runs four-on-four drills, and often--by luck of the draw--the Karcesky sisters end up playing together.

"We get on coach about it, like she's doing it on purpose, but we don't mind," Cory said.

Both Devin and Cory played a role in Northern's victory over Calvert. Devin finished the night with three kills and two blocks. Cory served a pair of key aces late in the second game.

With Northern leading, 11-10, and already up 1-0 in games, Cory served back-to-back line drives, handcuffing Calvert players and giving the Patriots a three-point lead. Junior Darcey Krug spiked the final two points to give the Patriots a commanding 2-0 lead in games.

"We're all pretty supportive of each other," Gretchen said. "My younger sister [Cory] is a sophomore, but she starts before me. It doesn't bother me. I know she is out there working hard and has earned her spot."

After a series of sideouts in the first game, Northern took control with a 13-0 run that saw the Patriots lose their serve only twice. Senior Katie Radford and Krug led the way with five and four kills, respectively.

Calvert took early leads in the second and third games, but lost the lead quickly each time. In the second game, the Patriots rallied from a 6-3 deficit to lead, 11-10. Cory Karcesky then helped Northern pull away with two aces. In the final game, Northern scored the final seven points of the match behind four kills from Krug.

"We knew what they were going to throw at us," said Dave Redden, Calvert's first-year coach, "but we just couldn't stop them."

Said Northern Coach Beth Incrocci: "I completely expected an intense match like this. You can't have a rivalry like this and not have an intense match. That's the best I have seen Calvert play this season."

Fueling the Northern-Calvert rivalry has been the two teams' perennial success. Calvert defeated Northern twice last season en route to its first-ever state title; Northern had won the four previous state titles.

And the majority of Calvert and Northern players are friends, having played together in the local club programs throughout their high school years.

That relationship was best exemplified when, just moments after losing, Calvert senior April Shields went over to the Northern bench to hug and congratulate a number of her "rivals."

"Darcey, I hate you," Shields said with a smile on her face to Northern's Krug. "You were unstoppable out there. You were great."