Madison Wyatt has a habit of stealing trophies.
When the trophy cases at Damascus are cleared out, the senior opposite hitter finds her treasures. A 1999 wrestling trophy. A 1994 cheerleading trophy. A cross-country trophy.
But in the bowels of the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum on Saturday night, Wyatt clutched a trophy that she and the Swarmin’ Hornets won fair and square. Damascus swept La Plata in straight sets in the Maryland 3A championship, 25-20, 25-20, 25-15, to win the program’s first state volleyball title.
“We didn’t steal it,” said outside hitter Annika Schwartz, who finished with 12 kills. “We earned it. But we took it away from them.”
All season, the Swarmin’ Hornets (17-2) have had a tendency to take matches down to the wire. Four of their 14 regular season matches went to five sets, and Tuesday’s semifinal against Glenelg did to.
But in the locker room before the championship match, they said they wouldn’t settle for a five-set win. The seven seniors of Damascus — “a Band of Sisters,” as they call themselves — wanted the sweep. So they took it, doing what senior classes before them could not.
“We’ve been told every year when our seniors graduate that, ‘Oh, that was the last year. That was our last chance,’ ” Wyatt said. “We showed them. We came back. It’s great to win as a senior and know that you took your chance.”
While La Plata (18-1) emerged from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference with an unbeaten record and only dropped one regular season set, the Swarmin’ Hornets took their lumps. They lost to 2A finalist Poolesville. Then they lost to Churchill.
After each loss, Coach Becky Ronquillo made her team stay in the gym and simmer in the cheers of its opposition. She wanted her players to know what it felt like to lose.
“I think that made us stronger,” Ronquillo said. “Today we walked in and I said, ‘They don’t know that feeling of defeat. You know it, you’re going to be stronger because of it. Don’t ever feel like that again.’”
The Swarmin’ Hornets brought with them a confidence that they couldn’t be stopped. So when they went on a 15-1 run in the third set, including a would-be kill that bounced off Schwartz’s foot and eventually turned into a point for Damascus, it wasn’t a surprise.
“I really don’t think that we could’ve played that much harder, with the heart that we did,” said La Plata middle hitter Caitlin Simmons, who had four kills and three blocks. “Although it wasn’t our strongest game, I think we all really wanted it.”
But Damascus wanted it more. The seven seniors have frequently stared at the blank space on the wall of their home gym, where a championship banner is waiting to be hung.
They wanted to fill that space.
“It’s not going to sink in until we see that banner,” setter Carly Marella said.
While trophies can be stolen, banners are only won.