Seneca Valley senior Julie Gassert and sophomore Lauren Green turned to each other and breathed a sigh of relief after their first game against Bethesda-Chevy Chase last night in a Maryland 3A West Region volleyball semifinal. The narrow win provided enough of a spark to catapult the Screaming Eagles to a 27-25, 25-19, 25-21 victory in Germantown.

Gassert and Green, along with senior Deborah Rodrigues, are the only returning starters from the team that advanced to the 3A state championship last year. Led by that trio, Seneca Valley is a win from a return trip to the state tournament -- a trip Gassert didn't envision earlier this season.

"Honestly, I don't think anybody thought that we would be going to region semifinals this season," Gassert said. "At the beginning of the season, there was a split between the old players and the new ones. But we've played through it, and as a setter, I have all the confidence in my teammates."

Seneca Valley (12-4) will play North Carroll or Westminster this weekend for the region title. The Screaming Eagles defeated Bethesda-Chevy Chase in last year's final.

Last night, after struggling with its passing and serving, Seneca Valley pulled out the first game when Bethesda-Chevy Chase (10-6) committed consecutive errors with the game tied at 25. In the third game, Seneca Valley rallied late and sealed the match on a kill by Gassert (18 assists, 10 kills, 4 aces) and an ace by Carla Elliott. Green had 11 kills, 12 assists and 5 aces, and Rodrigues added 10 kills.

"We made crucial mistakes at key times," B-CC Coach Michelle Clise said. "We gave them the momentum. Gassert and Green keep you on your toes because they are able to attack any ball."

Glenelg Bounces Back

Glenelg's 10th-ranked team lost to Atholton during the regular season, but the Gladiators won the match that mattered last night.

Senior outside hitters Julie Hollrah and Brooke Winterling each recorded a match-high 13 kills as Glenelg overwhelmed the visiting Raiders, 25-23, 25-17, 25-19, in a 2A South Region semifinal match.

"I never thought the match would be over in three games because Atholton beat us in four games the last time we played them," Glenelg Coach Don Beall said. "So this was a measuring stick of how much we improved and it only gets bigger from here."

Second-seeded Glenelg (14-3) will face top-seeded and undefeated Calvert or Reservoir tomorrow night for a berth in next week's state tournament. Atholton, which was led by senior outside hitter Nicole Massarelli's nine kills, finished 14-4.

"Our goal all year was to make it to the state tournament and now we're one step closer," said Winterling, who was on the Glenelg team that lost in the 2A final to Liberty in 2003. "We're winning states, and we're not going to have it any other way."

In the teams' regular season meeting, Atholton posted a 13-25, 25-16, 27-25, 25-19 victory in a match that lasted approximately two hours. But yesterday, Glenelg needed just an hour to advance to the region final.

"I was really surprised that it was over in three games because our last game took so long," Hollrah said. "We were preparing ourselves mentally in practice to play a long match that would go five games. But I thought we were really working together out there very well."

Seneca Valley's Julie Gassert tries to get a shot past Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Anna Kamerow (11) and Lee Geiser during the 3A West Region semifinal.