Warriors look for third-straight 3A South title after defeating H-town
By DALLAS COGLE
Junior outside hitter Faith Laidley looked like she was auditioning Wednesday for a role in the popular nursery rhyme ‘Old MacDonald had a farm.’
It was ‘Here a Faith, there a Faith, everywhere a Faith-Faith…’ for the second-seeded La Plata Warriors at home in the Class 3A South Region semifinals, as Laidley delivered the most impressive performance of her budding career against the third-seeded Huntingtown Hurricanes.
The explosive Laidley, at 5-foot-6, unloaded a powerful assortment of textbook kills, channeling her inner Mary Lavery, La Plata’s dominating force at the net the previous several seasons before graduating last year and now playing for NCAA Division II California University of Pennsylvania.
Laidley boasted a match-best 21 kills to lead La Plata past Huntingtown in four closely contested games, 25-23, 25-23, 21-25 and 25-21.
She cranked 13 kills through the first two games and then put away five more in the closeout game, only misfiring with an unforced error on one occasion the entire night.
But her offense was really only half the story.
Laidley hustled down a plethora of balls to keep points alive throughout the match, particularly in pivotal junctures of her team’s winning games, as she was almost as key defensively as she was offensively with her wealth of kills. Her effective jump serve was a weapon for La Plata as well.
The victory advances La Plata (14-2 overall) to another much-anticipated regional final against fourth-seeded Northern (11-5) for the third straight postseason, as the Warriors hope to continue their mastery in the matchup after winning the last two 3A South titles.
Tonight’s La Plata-hosted showdown for all the region’s marbles begins at 5:30 p.m. Northern swept top-seeded Friendly of Prince George’s County in the other 3A South semifinal on Wednesday night.
“We were all on our game tonight. We all played really well together,” said Laidley, who spearheaded a critical 18-5 run to capture a momentous comeback win in Game 2 after La Plata was down, 13-6, and Huntingtown appeared primed to even the match. “Our defense was coming together. It was important for us [to pull out Game 2]. During our timeouts [in Game 2], our coach told us to just relax and pass the ball. She told us that our defense was breaking down and we had to bring it back or we were going to lose.”
La Plata head coach Catherine Lavery added about Laidley, “[Huntingtown] blocked her one time [the entire match]. She played out of her mind. She’s the leader of the team, and I told her that. So I’m proud of her. She was just amazing tonight.”
La Plata needed all five games to put away Northern at home during the regular season in late September.
Laidley said, “We definitely know it’s not going to be an easy [match]. But we keep practicing. We’re just going to play our best.”
While Laidley deservingly grabbed the headlines, she also got plenty of timely help, particularly from teammates Caitlin Simmons and Emily Subocz.
Simmons, a long 5-foot-11 sophomore middle blocker, came through with back-to-back kills late in Game 1 to stretch La Plata’s thin lead to 22-19, just withstanding a Huntingtown run.
With La Plata clinging to a 24-23 lead in Game 1, Laidley ended the game with smashed kill that was so fast it could not be squared up to hit.
Game 2 saw Simmons come through in the final stages yet again, responsible for La Plata’s final two points on kills. After Huntingtown (11-5) again rallied to close a 24-18 deficit to just one point, Simmons finished off a mishit Huntingtown shot that enabled her to easily put the ball away to win the game. La Plata libero Meagan Griffiths made the play possible with a tremendous dig, spoiling a stellar Huntingtown serve.
“Heidi [Rottman, setter] has some really great sets. She hits them nice and high for me,” Simmons said.
She finished with eight kills, second best on the team.
“It’s a big win because [Huntingtown] beat Patuxent and we lost to Patuxent [costing us the conference title],” Simmons added. “So [Huntingtown] was hyped up off that.”
Subocz was steady in the match before emerging in impressive defensive form in the closeout game with four pivotal digs, spoiling Huntingtown shots and keeping La Plata with just enough of a comfortable lead. Subocz’s digging sparked La Plata to a 20-13 lead before it held off one last Huntingtown surge for the four-point match-clinching win.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match,” Subocz said. “We knew they were going to come ready to play, but we were ready, too. We got a little nervous in the third game, but we came back and won the fourth.”
Huntingtown was much more competitive versus La Plata than in the regular season when the Hurricanes were swept on the same Warriors court. Had Huntingtown not blown its early commanding lead in Game 2, perhaps the upset would have been in store.
“The biggest thing is La Plata never gave up,” Huntingtown head coach Felicia Hall said. “They’re a very good team, very fundamentally [sound]. You can’t lay off of them. Once you have the lead, you have to stay on top of them and stay aggressive. We did not do that.
“Their team plays very, very well together. They’re a well-coached team.”
Senior outside hitter Morgan Jones finished her career with a quality performance, leading Huntingtown with 15 kills. She was particularly productive in the final two games, combining for 10 kills.
Junior Sydney Bosmans added seven kills in the loss while Huntingtown teammates Lauren Abbott and Chelsea Ireland each registered six kills.