Taylor Gallart’s memories of the 2011 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference volleyball championship are vivid and painful.
Holy Cross came within the width of a net tape of dethroning Good Counsel — twice. Two match points that the Tartans failed to convert gave the Falcons the opening they needed to claim a sixth straight title and leave their opponents stunned.
So even after the Tartans grabbed a commanding two-set lead in Saturday’s WCAC final against Paul VI Catholic at Elizabeth Seton, Gallart reminded her young teammates precisely what was at stake.
“This match is not over,” Gallart told her team before the third set. “We’ve got to go out there and fight until it’s done.”
Keyed by an 8-1 run to start the set, the sixth-ranked Tartans left no doubt, finishing off a 25-10, 25-17, 25-10 sweep to claim what’s believed to be the school’s first WCAC volleyball championship and cap an unbeaten run through the conference.
“This was the goal from the beginning of the season, because we were heartbroken last year,” said Gallart, one of the team’s two seniors. “We learned the hard way that if you let up at any point, anything can happen. But we knew that if we played our best, we could take it.”
The Tartans (26-1) cruised through the opening set, but after pep talks from Coach Sam Farrar and junior setter Kathryn Brown, Paul VI clawed its way into the match in the second set.
The Panthers (14-9) responded by building a 7-4 lead, but Gallart pounded down three kills in four points off Kelly Miller sets to give the Tartans a lead they would not relinquish.
Gallart led the attack with 16 kills and sophomore outside hitter Cassie Lapcevich added 10, including three straight late in the third set to help Holy Cross finish with a flurry. Miller had 20 assists and Carlisle Cardoza led the defense with six digs.
“It kind of feels like we’ve been practicing for four years just for this moment,” said senior hitter Grace Lide who played alongside Gallart as a freshman in Dave Geiser’s first season as coach. “It’s a completely different program now, and it’s only going to get bigger.”
The Tartans will attempt to avenge their lone loss when they face Independent School League champion Flint Hill (25-2) in the City Championship on Monday.
“We’re looking forward to another shot at them — in a full match at a neutral site,” Geiser said. “They’re a great team, and it’ll be a great way to end the season.”