The Damascus volleyball team thrives on emotion. So when the Swarmin’ Hornets found themselves one set away from a defeat that would end their season Tuesday night, they did what any emotional bunch of girls would do. They quoted “Remember the Titans.”
“Who wants a victory?” one player yelled in a team huddle.
“I want a victory!” another answered.
After dropping the third set, the Swarmin’ Hornets used those movie quotes, cheers and intricate handshakes to stay positive. They forced and won the decisive fifth set, defeating Glenelg, 25-23, 20-25, 19-25, 25-21, 15-12, in the Maryland 3A semifinals at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
Damascus (16-2) will return to College Park on Saturday for the state championship match against La Plata, which defeated Bel Air, 25-16, 25-20, 25-15, in the second semifinal on Tuesday.
Being down a set in the state semifinal is one thing, but being down, 10-8, in the fifth set is another thing entirely. The Swarmin’ Hornets dug themselves out of both holes by leaning on seniors Annika Schwartz (21 kills, four digs) and Madison Wyatt (seven kills, three digs, three blocks).
“We always play first to a certain number of points. First to three, first to five, first to eight,” Wyatt said. “So we told ourselves that when we were down, 8-10, we just said, ‘We have four points to get before they get two.’ And we did it.”
Senior Morgan Perry led Glenelg (14-3) with 26 kills, including 10 in the second. But after her last attack landed in the net to end the match, she knelt on the hardwood and let the emotion sink in. Sarah Girard (13 kills, 10 digs) was in tears while addressing the media after the match.
“Once you have that momentum ride, especially in the fifth set, it’s really hard to kind of fight off,” Glenelg Coach Jason Monjes said. “We fought our best. Obviously we’re short of what we wanted to do, but I’m really proud of how our kids fought tonight.”
While Damascus and Glenelg battled to a fifth set, La Plata (18-0) comfortably advanced to the title match in straight sets. The Warriors have reached the 3A semifinals in each of the past four seasons, but this year, they were finally able to get over the hump. Senior Maggie Lavery led the Warriors with 15 kills.
“It’s nice to finally come in here and show what La Plata’s about,” said Coach Catherine Lavery, Maggie’s mother. “It’s nice to prove that they are a great team. We are a small school, but they’re wonderful athletes and they work extremely hard.”
Saturday’s championship match will have a little extra importance for La Plata as it will be Coach Lavery’s last match after six years with the program. With Maggie’s graduation, the coach said she will move to Virginia and probably take over another budding volleyball program there.
“I think we’re here to play for her,” said outside hitter Faith Laidley, who finished with six kills and 10 digs. “Our team has been through a lot this season, but I think we’ve really come together these past few weeks and decided it’s time to play for Coach.”