This season seemed a test of grit, attitude, will and talent for the Broadneck girls' volleyball team. At times it looked as if a repeat championship would be in hand, and at others, as if a strong team could come around and sweep them under the rug.

Gaithersburg didn't quite do that, but it did send the Bruins home last week, battling from a two-game deficit to win the 4A state semifinal match and avenging three semifinal losses to the Bruins from 2000 to 2002.

Bruins Coach Romonzo Beans said his team was "confident in fifth games [this season]. They know to play under control. . . . They didn't put the ball away. I didn't see [my] people running into each other and letting balls drop. No, no. Those balls [hit by Gaithersburg players] were solid kills."

Trojans junior Kaitlin Straiter and senior Sarah Fillmore were responsible for most of those blasts on the Ritchie Coliseum floor at the University of Maryland, combining for 31 kills. In the final three games, Fillmore (17 total kills) had 11 and Straiter (14) had five.

"They served aggressively" in the final three games, Bruins senior setter Stephanie Carey said of Gaithersburg. "They became a much more aggressive team. Their setter did a good job of spreading the ball around. In the beginning they were going to the same people, and we were able to shut them down. Then they started spreading the ball around, and they found holes in the court."

Those holes ended Broadneck's season without a fourth state championship. Though the ultimate goal wasn't achieved, the Bruins did pull down county and region titles.

Bruins senior outside hitter Kanishia Sheppard said she is leaving with positive thoughts about her final season. "In the beginning I honestly didn't think we would do well," Sheppard said, "but we pulled together and had a really good season."

Broadneck's Stephanie Carey sets for Ali Malesich in a victory over Old Mill in October. The Bruins lost to Gaithersburg in the state semifinals last week.