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College Park After falling in four sets to Fallston of Harford County in last year’s Class 2A state semifinal, the Calvert volleyball team was back again at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum. This time it advanced a step farther, when it faced Williamsport of Washington County in Monday night’s state championship match.
Each set, Calvert found itself trailing and responded with big runs to stay within striking distance but the holes were just too deep to dig out of and the Cavaliers fell in three sets to the Wildcats, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22.
It was a special win for Williamsport (19-1 overall), which not only won its 13th state volleyball title, but won for a title for teammate Samantha Rae Kelly — who was killed along with baseball standout Brendon Colliflower in an auto accident in May following their senior prom.
The Wildcats are the third team in the county to win a state title, as Smithsburg and North Hagerstown won the Class 1A and Class 3A titles, respectively, last Friday.
“I kind of feel like we cheated this year because we had seven on the court instead of six,” said Emily Crabtree, who has coached Williamsport to five of its 13 titles. “The feeling right now is nothing like any of those [titles]. If you don’t believe now... you got to believe.”
Calvert senior outside hitter Karli Hawxhurst, who finished with six kills and 12 digs, mentioned the amount of emotion that Williamsport with.
“They obviously had the crowd behind them,” she said. “I think we were nervous and they had a lot of momentum with all the people. I’m really happy they could do it for that girl [Kelly] though.”
Williamsport surged out to leads of 5-0, 11-3 and 21-10 in the first game. Calvert answered right back with an 11-3 run, but came up three points short. Wildcats senior middle hitter Stacey Christy had four kills and a block in the first 16 points, while Williamsport’s serves and hits prevented Calvert from being able to run its strong and quick middle offense.
“We wanted to set the tone early, we knew Calvert would make some runs, but we really wanted this,” said Christy, who finished with a match-high 16 kills. “I felt like we had to do this because [we] and the baseball team had high powers working.”
“It was definitely nerves to start, especially on serve-receive,” Calvert head coach Tim Smith said. “Serving and passing are the parts of the game that can get into your head, especially when there’s nerves. Our ball control wasn’t there at times, and we were second guessing ourselves. We played hard tonight, we just came up short.”
Williamsport took control of the second game with a 7-1 run for a 13-8 lead. After Calvert cut it to 15-13, Williamsport pulled away with a 7-0 run for a 22-13 advantage. But the Cavaliers again responded with a 9-0 run that tied the game at 22.
Junior Courtney Malott gave Williamsport a 23-22 lead when she found the back left corner with a push for the last of her four kills in the set. Christy’s block gave the Wildcats match point, 24-22, and after Calvert’s Rachel Hornick put away the last of her five kills in the set for Calvert, Karli Grimes found the back corner with a cross-court kill to give Williamsport a two-game lead.
Leading Calvert (15-2) offensively was Hornick, who collected 10 of her team-high 11 kills in the first two sets.
“That’s been the story of our team we like to come from behind,” said senior setter Lauren Carman, who finished with 24 assists and nine digs. “We were nervous, really nervous I can tell you. I felt like I was going to throw up the entire game.”
“We struggled throughout this season holding onto the lead,” said Crabtree. “We play better when we’re behind and have to dig deep. Calvert had really strong hitters, and made us work for every point.”
Senior Kara Collins collected seven kills, while senior Meghan Lanham finished with five aces for Calvert.
The third set was closer throughout, although Williamsport never relinquished the lead after a 6-2 run gave the Wildcats a 12-8 advantage. Christy, a Virginia Tech commit, exploded with eight kills and a block in the game while Grimes added three kills.
Leading 22-21, Christy had a big hit over the Cavaliers’ defense to make it a 23-21 lead. After a Calvert kill cut the lead to one yet again, Christy ended a long rally with a hard shot to put Williamsport in position to seal it.
The match ended when a falling Grimes somehow managed to keep a Calvert kill attempt in the air. The dig went back across the net and caught the Cavaliers off-guard — and the Cavaliers season ended in heartbreak fashion.
“Meghan served very well for us in the match tonight,” Smith said. Calvert won state titles in 1998 and 2003 while a Class 3A school. “Those balls that she served were very tough and kept us in the games.”
“We had an awesome season, win or lose,” Smith added. “I’m proud that we were able to get here the last two years.”
“Throughout our four years here we’ve grown as a program,” Carman said. “It was a very good experience coming to the state tournament back-to- back years.”
Williamsport was strong defensively throughout the match, holding a 64-50 advantage in digs.
Calvert will graduate five seniors.
“This is the first game where we didn’t let any balls hit the floor,” Crabtree said. “The state championship was on the line, hats off to Calvert, those girls put a very good fight.”