For much of the past two seasons, Calvert's power and precision were so overwhelming, opponents were too intimidated to retaliate.
Atholton had no such issues Wednesday in the Maryland 2A South volleyball semifinal. The Raiders snapped the defending 3A champion's 34-match win streak with a 25-19, 20-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-10 victory in Prince Frederick.
No team had confused Calvert with such spectacular serves the way Atholton did, buzzing them just over the net yet deep toward the Cavaliers' service line.
"Our philosophy is to serve deep and make them pass the ball," Atholton Coach Bruce Lindblad said.
Calvert Coach David Redden, whose team had not lost since the 2002 3A South final, said he usually has his players line up eight to 10 feet inside the service line. Atholton's serves forced the Cavaliers to line up only about two or three feet inside the boundary, challenging their judgment of whether the serves would land in.
"Our girls took some balls that maybe they shouldn't have," Redden said. "They served tough from the beginning, and it took us out of a lot of things. We tried to make the perfect set, and that hurt us."
Calvert knew little about Atholton. The Raiders did not play in the Bulldog Tournament at North Caroline in early October, which is the Cavaliers' best chance to see teams from outside of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
"We came in not knowing anything about them," junior Whitney Johnson said. "The only way we learned about them is by playing, and that took us a game to figure that out. We still weren't as prepared as we should have been."
Calvert lost that first game, 25-19. But unlike its match with Severna Park, in which Calvert lost the first game and won the next three, or when it overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Huntingtown, the Cavaliers could not make Atholton flinch.
The teams split the first four games, and Calvert took a 3-1 lead in the decisive fifth game. But then Atholton ran off 10 straight points behind the serving of Rachel Burke, and that all but clinched the match for the Raiders.
"We let them serve too many points in a row," Redden said. "Those long runs hurt us."