Glenelg's players have patiently waited for a rematch with defending Maryland 2A champion Towson for the past year, hanging the success of their season on a state final matchup with the Generals.
They got it today, by virtue of a 15-4, 15-9, 15-0 semifinal victory over J.M. Bennett of Salisbury in the state semifinals at the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex. The Gladiators' reactions, however, were muted.
"It just felt like we relaxed before the game even started," said Glenelg junior setter Tara Stradling, who had 27 assists. "We played just above them."
"Just above" the Clippers (17-2) was more than enough to beat the 2A East champs, though the No. 2 Gladiators (19-0) didn't do much celebrating afterward.
"This team really wants it. . . . We just couldn't get up today," said outside hitter Sarah Tursell, who led the Gladiators with 12 kills. "There is only so much talking people can do. If you can't get up, you can't get up, especially when it's so slow and quiet."
Glenelg, winner of 19 straight games and its first Howard County championship, will play Towson (18-0) at noon Saturday at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville. The Generals defeated Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 15-9, 15-5, 15-1, in today's other semifinal
Glenelg's last loss came to Towson in last year's finals, and to avoid a repeat, the Gladiators will have to contain Towson hitters Emily Berman (13 kills) and Stephanie Kines (15 kills). The pair torched the upstart Barons (10-8), surprise entrants in the state semifinals even by their own coach's account.
Second-year coach Rita Pascale said her team had only eight players -- varsity and junior varsity combined -- when she took over. The Barons were 4-12 last season and started this season with five losses, but ended it with nine straight wins before tonight.
"This was definitely unexpected," senior captain Diana Hill said. "We are very proud of the regional championship. I don't think it's ever been done before in B-CC history."
Patuxent, Mount Hebron Advance
The first two times Patuxent served for the match in its Maryland 3A semifinal against Dulaney, the Panthers never managed to set up their offense.
The third time, senior Missy Chapman made sure that wouldn't be necessary. Chapman's deep, topspin serve handcuffed a Dulaney defender, giving the No. 3 Panthers a 15-10, 15-11, 15-12 victory and sending them into Saturday's championship match against Mount Hebron.
Patuxent (16-1) had never played in a state tournament before tonight, and the Panthers fell behind, 9-6, in the first game. But their typically ferocious defense sparked a 9-1 game-ending run.
"We knew that if we settled down and played our game, we'd be fine," said senior Margo Shisler, who had seven kills. And although all three games were close, the hard-hitting 3A North champion Lions (16-3) couldn't match Patuxent's uncanny defensive accuracy.
"We knew that they were going to hit hard, so if we could get a dig, we could get into their heads," said senior Charese Baldwin, who led Patuxent's offense with 15 kills and four blocks.
In the first semifinal, 3A East champion Mount Hebron used a late string of serves from sophomore Connie Pikounis to advance to its first state title game since 1995, recording a 12-15, 18-16, 15-7, 15-13 win over 3A West champion Liberty.
When Pakounis went behind the service line, the Vikings (16-3) trailed 12-4; seven points and four aces later, Mount Hebron was on the verge of victory.
"I just knew that I had to get [the ball] in the court," said Pakounis, who finished with 17 kills, 12 blocks and 7 aces.
Already down a game, Mount Hebron saw a six-point lead disappear in the second game, which had seven ties and four lead changes. But after the Vikings staved off three game points, senior Audrey Damrongsri (14 kills, 20 digs) closed the game with three strong serves.
Senior setter Stacey Carroll had 39 assists and a team-high 35 digs for Mount Hebron.