The last eight Maryland 3A volleyball champions have come from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference -- and last night's SMAC showdown between No. 1 Patuxent and No. 9 Calvert displayed why the conference has been so dominant.
In a five-game, 2-hour 10-minute marathon that featured momentum swings on both sides, Calvert defeated Patuxent, 12-15, 15-7, 15-7, 8-15, 15-5 in Prince Frederick, handing the Panthers (11-1) their first loss of the season and forging a three-way tie for first place in the conference. Calvert, Patuxent and Northern have each suffered one SMAC defeat.
Calvert (9-2) won with grit and determination, and in the pivotal fifth game, senior hitters Amber Riffe and Lindsey Chaney led the Cavaliers to 10 straight points after Patuxent had taken a 1-0 lead.
The fifth game also featured two incredible plays that sent the home crowd into a frenzy and showed Calvert's tremendous never-give-up attitude.
With Calvert leading 9-1, Riffe raced off the court, lunged at the bleachers to save a ball and knocked it back into play as the Cavaliers won the point.
"I wasn't looking. I thought I was going to hit the bleachers, but somebody yelled, 'You've got room,' so I just dove for it," said Riffe, who had 10 kills.
Later in the final game, a Patuxent spike went off a Calvert player, bounced off the ceiling's rafters and shot toward the floor. Senior Erin Bull (10 kills, two blocks) dived and with one hand knocked the ball over the net for a sideout. Moments later Riffe hit a hard spike for match point.
"We didn't do the basic things we needed to do -- getting to the right [spots] on defense and anticipating where they were going to put the ball," said Patuxent senior outside hitter Margo Shisler, who had a game-high 15 kills, 1 block and 1 ace.
Calvert also got superb performances from Chaney (10 kills, 4 blocks, 1 ace), Amanda Mitchell (five kills, two blocks, five aces) and Tiffany Thompson, who served a game-high nine aces.
"Sometimes a five-game match comes down to conditioning, who's in better shape, but I'm not taking anything away from Patuxent because they weren't slacking out there," Calvert Coach Dave Redden said.
Behind two games to one, Patuxent came out with intensity in the fourth game, led by dominating play from senior Charesse Baldwin (11 kills, eight blocks) in the middle. With Patuxent down 6-2, Baldwin made several blocks to help spark the Panthers to 12 straight points.