After Atholton had won the first two sets of the Maryland 3A volleyball final Tuesday night, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” blasted through the speakers of Ritchie Coliseum in College Park. Atholton players found a teammate, grabbed hands and did a little jig.

It didn’t matter that they were on the biggest stage of the season and were one set away from winning the state title. It didn’t matter that their opponent had advanced to the final despite being down two sets in the semifinal. The Raiders were going to have fun.

“That’s how we work,” outside hitter Lisa Zoch said.

No. 4 Atholton finished off Bel Air in the third set, capping a 25-16, 25-16, 25-15 victory to reclaim the state title Tuesday, one year after losing in the final. The win marked the Raiders’ second title in three years.


The season has been one of redemption for the Raiders (21-2-1). They were thwarted by Northern in three sets last year, two of which went to deuce.


“I remember as soon as we walked off the court [last year], the coach was like, ‘Remember how you feel right now, ladies. You know you don’t want to feel this next year,’ ” Zoch said. “That was something I held onto because I remember that feeling was really rough. Having been there and losing teaches you about that mental toughness and what it takes to come back.”

Lesson learned. When the Raiders moved within a point of the state title, Coach Larry Schofield called a timeout to tell his players to embrace the moment.


“Enjoy this,” he told them. “You’re about to win in 38 seconds.”

The Raiders never let the Bobcats (21-3) get into the game. The only time Bel Air held a lead was in the second and third sets when it was ahead 2-0 and 2-1.

“I feel like we were like a lawn mower. We just plowed through them,” libero Elise Park said. “Nothing stopped us. Everything that they would do, we would adjust. We just focused on our side and did our job.”

Zoch had 14 kills to lead the Raiders’ offense. Even when the Bobcats were able to get a dig, they had difficulty setting up the offense and gave Atholton more chances for an attack.

“We have a saying, ‘We didn’t come this far just to get this far,’” Park said. “We didn’t win so much . . . just to lose the final. We came to win.”