When the players on the Calvert volleyball team huddled together after the second game of their match at Leonardtown on Monday night, it was the first time all year that Calvert had to respond to losing a game.
"At that point, I just said to them that the dream of a perfect season was done," said Cavaliers Coach David Redden. "But now it's time to make sure that you leave here undefeated for the season."
Calvert (9-0; 6-0 Southern Maryland Athletic Conference through Monday) responded by winning two straight games and heading home undefeated. But it wasn't without a scare from a feisty Leonardtown squad.
"I always thought we were in it," said Leonardtown Coach Shirley Geisbert. "We played well in spurts but just kept making key mistakes at crucial times that cost us.
"We need to be more consistent to stay in a game like that."
Calvert won 25-12, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16, but midway through the third game, the Raiders (4-3; 1-3) had an 18-15 advantage and the home crowd on their side.
The Cavaliers answered with a 10-3 run, though, showing signs of the dominance they displayed in the first game of the match and for the majority of the season.
"We just need to play better volleyball than we did tonight," Calvert senior Molly Herring said. "We know what we can do, but we need to do it more consistently."
Leonardtown was able to hang close by taking advantage of mistakes and neutralizing Calvert's All-Met senior hitter Whitney Johnson, who had just seven kills in the four-game match.
Raiders senior Rebecca Steinbeck led the way.
"Rebecca had a few really key blocks when we needed them," Geisbert said. "She's a really consistent player that has helped us a lot in the middle."
Teams Itching to Meet
With Calvert and Huntingtown cruising through their SMAC schedules without a loss, both coaches know their players are looking forward to their Oct. 25 meeting.
But that doesn't mean they want them looking ahead.
"As it gets closer, it gets tougher," said Huntingtown Coach Cheryl Lord.
The Cavaliers dominated the conference last season, but it was the Hurricanes who made the deeper run into the state tournament, all the way to the 3A semifinals.
Redden tells his players that the only match they should be focusing on is the next one. But it's not easy. "We definitely think about it," Herring said. "It just can't be a distraction."
A String of Illnesses
A series of health issues has sidelined the majority of Huntingtown's lineup at times this season, providing an unexpected obstacle for the team's veteran coach.
Nine of her 10 players have missed practice or matches because of illness, and seven of those players were sick enough to need a doctor's care.
"I've never had to deal with this before," Lord said. "It started early and just kept on."
The Hurricanes (8-1; 8-0) haven't suffered much, but Lord is hoping all of the lineup shifting will make them more versatile.
"We have players that have practiced at two or three positions," she said. "I think we're finally starting to get healthy, but you need to be prepared."
Strong Start for Westlake
Despite a three-game loss to Calvert on Oct. 5, Westlake Coach Jim Johnson has been pleased, but not surprised, with his team's strong start.
"I think we've done very well in Charles County," Johnson said. "The trouble is when we cross over that Patuxent River."
The Wolverines fell to Calvert 25-14, 25-14, 25-18 in front of a raucous home crowd.
Westlake captains Kellie Clark and Ashley Royster have led the charge for the Wolverines (6-3, 3-2).
"They just understand that our goal is to win, and they have the right attitude for it," Johnson said. "That's Westlake's brand of volleyball."