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Warriors stand good chance of returning to states next year to avenge three years worth of shortcomings

By DALLAS COGLE

Staff writer

University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum is not exactly a place that conjures up warm thoughts for the La Plata Warriors.

Despite all its winning over these last three volleyball seasons with Class 3A South Region crowns during each of the playoff runs, mixing in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title in 2011 sandwiched by league runner-up finishes, La Plata bowed out of the state playoffs Wednesday like it did the last two postseasons: without a win, stumped in the state semifinals.

La Plata was unable to pull off the upset versus Centennial of Howard County, getting swept in lopsided fashion.

“I'm proud of the girls. We kept fighting, we tried,” said La Plata head coach Catherine Lavery, the architect in building the program into a major contender on a yearly basis. “I thought we came in well-prepared in tonight's match. We just ran up against a good Centennial team.”

It would be easy to label La Plata nothing more than a tease when it comes to states, given its status as the SMAC’s most celebrated program since 2010. After all, the SMAC’s top programs prior to 2010 had mostly hailed from Calvert County since the late 1980s and usually continued their success at states.

From 1988 through 2009, Calvert County teams were victorious in the state semifinals in all but four years and celebrated Maryland titles on 12 occasions. And SMAC champion Calvert stands a good chance of adding another state title to the stockpile Monday when it competes in the 2A final on Monday against Williamsport of Washington County.

Northern boasts nine of those state titles, most recently winning in 2009.

In fact, La Plata dethroned then-SMAC champion Northern in the 2010 regional final during its first of the three straight state runs. La Plata also knocked off Northern in the regional finals last year and again this postseason.

The Warriors ran into the eventual state champion in Towson of Baltimore County during the 2010 state semifinals. Towson surprised the entire 3A final-four field that postseason all the way to Maryland glory with a defensive-minded, scrappy nature that defined this year’s La Plata squad. Towson swept La Plata, but all three games were close.

Then a year ago, La Plata was ousted by River Hill of Howard County in a state semifinal match that went the distance of five games.

That 2011 La Plata team, headlined by a standout senior core of talent including arguably the state’s best player in Mary Lavery (now at NCAA Division II California University of Pennsylvania), took Game 1 against River Hill and was in position to win Game 2, ahead 23-21, before falling in a 30-28 heartbreaker that was a preview of what was to come in the thrilling match.

Down two games to one to River Hill, La Plata went on to force a deciding Game 5 that was as deflating as the match’s outcome with the Warriors never threatening in a 15-2 result. Losing to River Hill was the only loss last year for a La Plata team that entered the 2011 states field as a favorite.

But unlike the conclusion of last year when the final chapter of that senior-driven team was written, the end of the book for this year’s La Plata lead cast has yet to be determined.

La Plata returns the bulk of its major contributors next year, including junior outside hitter Faith Laidley, who returns as a lead contender for SMAC Most Outstanding Player honors.

Despite graduating several key talents in setter Heidi Rottman, defensive specialist Emily Subocz and liberos Meagan Griffiths and Julie Huber, La Plata will enter next year as an elite SMAC and regional contender.

In fact, La Plata and Northern could square off in a fourth straight regional final in 2013.

It will be then when La Plata’s legacy during the Catherine Lavery era may be fully realized.

While La Plata has been great in many areas since its big-time emergence in 2010, it hardly wants to add being a states tease to that long list.

“We had a great season, we have nothing to hang our heads about,” junior outside hitter Maggie Lavery said after Wednesday’s state semifinal setback. “We played a very talented team. They had a lot of strong hitters and just outplayed us.

“We have a young team, so I think we can do this again next year.”

dcogle@somdnews.com

Staff writer AJ Mason contributed to this report.