Calvert senior April Shields walked off the court Tuesday evening energized from the Cavaliers' 15-12, 18-16, 15-4 victory over previously undefeated McDonough, but she found little voice to express her excitement. As usual, the match had worn out her vocal cords.
No. 2 Calvert rallied behind the play of junior Rachel Leitch (13 kills) and sophomore Brittany Mister (seven kills) for narrow victories in the first two games before coasting to victory in the final game. The win could give the Cavaliers (9-1, 7-1 in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference) a boost as they approach the postseason, where Calvert will be shooting for a second consecutive Maryland 3A championship.
"Calvert is a real tough team," said McDonough Coach Morris Davis, who works with a number of Calvert's players in the offseason for the Southern Maryland Juniors club program. "They are the toughest serving team we have faced this season. They really pinpointed their serves and found our weaker points."
Shields, the Cavaliers' smallest player at 5 feet tall, is also their most vocal. And on a team returning just three starters, Shields's leadership has been crucial to Calvert's success--even though she only plays on the back row.
"She only plays three rotations, but when she is on the court, she is focused the whole time," Calvert Coach Dave Redden said. "She is a very intelligent player. She can tell 95 percent of the time where a hitter is going to hit the ball. . . . She's also a very vocal player, even when she is on the bench. She's never out of the game. Physically, she may be out of it, but mentally and vocally, she's in every point of the match."
With a number of new faces on the team this year, Shields has found her role quite different from what it was last year.
"Last year, it was Amanda [Ayres] and Kim [Payne] who were the role models on the team," Shields said. "I feel like I have to be the role model this year and have them look up to me. Now I feel like I have to step it up and be a mother of sorts to some of them."
McDonough (10-1, 7-1 SMAC) showed it had talent by starting the season undefeated, but Davis knew that Tuesday's match would show more precisely where his team stood in the highly competitive conference.
McDonough held a 13-10 advantage in the second game before Calvert's Mister took charge with four consecutive kills that propelled the Cavaliers to an 18-16 victory. The loss seemed to deflate McDonough, which fell behind, 9-0, in the final game.
"We'll be ready next time," Davis said. "We know more of what to expect now. They are a team I think we are capable of beating."
Things get no easier for McDonough. Its final three regular season opponents include No. 1 Northern today and No. 7 Patuxent next week.
WESTLAKE 3, CHOPTICON 2: With defensive specialist Stephanie Cummings playing what Coach Kate Enfield called "her best game of the year," the Wolverines outlasted the Braves, 15-6, 9-15, 15-8, 5-15, 15-5. The keys for Westlake (8-3, 7-3) were handling Chopticon's short hits and regrouping after losing the fourth game, Enfield said.
"In the huddle before the fifth game, I said, 'Girls, we've beaten them twice already tonight. You've just got to want to win it."
CAPTION: Calvert senior April Shields, a vocal leader for the Cavaliers volleyball team, celebrates with teammates after Tuesday's victory over previously undefeated McDonough. "She is focused the whole time," Calvert Coach Dave Redden said of Shields, who is just 5 feet tall.