When she got the ball Thursday on the most important point of the most important volleyball match in Howard County this season, Howard setter Hanna Webster didn’t really have much of a plan.
It was Senior Night in Ellicott City, and the crowd was rocking. The match had been moving at a furious pace. In a final point that she would later recall as a blur, Webster did what she frequently does — passed to outside hitter Sydney Biniak.
“I know I can really trust her,” Webster said, “because she can pound the crap out of the ball.”
Biniak’s 25th kill skipped off the hand of a helpless defender and into Glenelg’s bench, giving No. 8 Howard a thrilling win, 25-18, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-13.
But this was more than just a thrilling win. The victory secured the county championship for the Lions (13-1, 12-1 Howard County), gave them momentum entering the postseason, and offered a measure of payback, as No. 10 Glenelg (11-2, 11-2) beat Howard in a similar fashion Sept. 16.
“You know, I think it was fitting,” Howard Coach Grant Scott said. “They did the same thing to us at their house. They won it on a big play at the end of Game 5, and we returned the favor. It was amazing.”
Scott spent 11 years as Howard’s coach before taking two years off to spend time with his family. When he returned to the team at the beginning of last season, he didn’t know much about the pieces that he would have to work with. But he knew that he would have Biniak.
Biniak was a middle hitter at the time and she had developed a short, fast swing. Scott saw her in practice and told her that she would be moving to outside hitter. She balked at first, but Scott moved her anyway, reassuring her by telling her she would be all-county at outside hitter.
Biniak certainly looked the part Thursday. One of the 5-foot-11 senior’s kills left a Glenelg defender shaking her head. Another kill ricocheted off an attempted dig and landed in the top row of the gym’s seats. Others were downright untouchable.
“The great thing about her is that she’s got power, she’s got strength, but she’s a smart hitter,” Scott said. “She knows when to take a little bit off. She knows when to swing with power.”
Midway through the fourth set, Biniak massaged her right hand in between points. The pain was not from the force of her hits, but from a gym burn on an attempted dig. It didn’t affect her swing, but it did bother her.
Hugging teammates and fans after the win, however, the pain was all but gone.
“It’s awesome,” Biniak said. “For Glenelg to come into our house and be the only team that beat us, we were definitely extremely motivated. Great way to end the season and great motivation for playoffs.”