Even throughout a successful regular season that earned the Great Mills volleyball team a No. 3 seed in the Maryland 3A state tournament, the Hornets knew they could put together a more complete match. They knew they had to avoid dropping the occasional game and making frustrating errors.
In their first playoff game Monday, the Hornets picked an opportune time to earn a decisive three-game win over Westlake.
"I was very glad to be able to get a 3-0 win," Coach Jennifer Toole said. "We've had a lot of good starts and then lost that edge, that momentum, and gone to game 5. It was good to finish this one."
Great Mills (10-5) won the match, 25-22, 25-23, 25-21, to advance to the state semifinals. Westlake, which lost for the second time this season to Great Mills, finished the season 8-8.
The win earned the Hornets a rematch with second seed Huntingtown yesterday. That match ended too late for this edition.
Two big reasons for the quick match were the play of Hornets juniors Carlisha Holly and Stephanie Enoch.
In the pivotal second game, Great Mills won a point on a very long rally that tied the game, 21-21, before Holly made a heads-up play that swung the momentum to her team.
She dived toward the line to attempt a dig, then pulled her hands back at the last second as she realized the ball would hit just out of bounds.
"I knew we needed that point and just saw the line at the last second," said Holly, who also clinched the second game with a cross-court kill.
Westlake was leading the third game by as many as four points before Great Mills roared back with an 8-0 run to close the match.
The Hornets hung close thanks to Enoch, who had four key blocks that resulted in Great Mills points.
"I think we did a really great job today of getting points when we needed them," Enoch said. "We've gotten to the point where our heads are in tune together."
But Toole said her girls know they need to raise their game to advance farther in the tournament. She said the key is communication.
"When they communicate, it helps them focus and anticipate to make plays that they normally wouldn't," she said. "That's what it takes to be an elite team."