- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
There’s a little known fact about Madi Wyatt: she steals trophies — “they throw them away,” she argued. Scattered throughout the Wyatt household is a 1999 wrestling trophy, one from a 1994 cheerleading competition, another cross country trophy so battered that it’s now just a gleaming foot and a few other trinkets she commandeered throughout her four years at Damascus High School.
There are two defining elements of these prizes, not a single one is for first place and not a single one has been rightfully earned by Wyatt herself.
On Saturday night, however, the left-handed hitter returned home to Damascus with a trophy in hand, one that not only denotes a first-place finish and that’s not only being stored in the proper house — it’s the only such trophy in school history.
In Saturday night’s 3A state title match at Ritchie Coliseum in College Park with previously undefeated La Plata, Wyatt and her Swarmin’ Hornets put on what coach Becky Ronquillo said is likely the best performance she had ever seen from her group of seniors. Damascus swept the Warriors, a team that had dropped just two sets all year, with ease, 25-20, 25-20, 25-15.
“We earned it,” said outside hitter Annika Schwartz, who finished with 12 kills. “We stole it away from [La Plata] though.”
In the 38-year history of the Maryland state volleyball tournament, the Swarmin’ Hornets had never claimed first. They had been close, finishing second in 1978 and 2006, but the top spot remained elusive.
Afterwards, Ronquillo was spilling with praise, getting a little choked up at the thought of losing Schwartz, Wyatt, Carly Marella and Alex Nelligan — her “Big Four.” But it was La Plata’s Faith Laidley who may have summed it up best as to how dominant Damascus was on the University of Maryland campus.
“Was this the best team they had ever seen?” a reporter asked.
“For sure,” she replied
“Was this the best defensive team they had ever seen?” a reporter asked.
“For sure,” she said
“Did you expect Damascus to be quite that strong?” a reporter asked.
“No, not really,” she replied.
Lofty praise coming from a team that only dropped two sets all year and had previously beaten Patuxent, which edged Poolesville in a five-set match for the 2A state title.
“We said in the locker room beforehand, ‘We’re not settling,” recalled Wyatt, who matched Schwartz with 12 kills. ““We’re not going to settle for five or four. We’re going to take it in three. We’re going to take them down in three.’”
This was a night in which very little could go wrong for the Swarmin’ Hornets. Down 6-2 in the third set, Damascus rattled off a 15-1 run that was kept intact when a seemingly sure kill for La Plata glanced off of Schwartz’s foot, bounced perfectly up to Marella, who subsequently set up a kill in Damascus’ direction.
When that was brought up in the La Plata press conference, all the quartet of representatives could do was shrug and laugh. When things like that are happening, it’s just not their night.
“We pray before games,” Schwartz said. “We do like a little prayer, and I just thought to myself, ‘That proves it helps. He’s with us right there.’”
There is a blank spot in the Damascus gymnasium that Ronquillo has made her team stare at after every single practice. It’s where she has imagined the volleyball state championship banner will be hung when the day finally came that her team brought one home.
“Our banners are so pretty,” Schwartz said with a laugh, putting on her best googly eyes.
So, after four years of tantalizingly close runs, this Remember the Titans-quoting, trophy-stealing and state championship-sweeping Damascus squad can finally hang one up. And Wyatt will be able to sleep soundly, because just in case another Swarmin’ Hornet student picks up her proclivity for nabbing trophies, that banner is going to be a bit out of reach.
Damascus 3, La Plata 0
Damascus (17-2) 25 25 25 — 3
La Plata (18-1) 20 20 15 — 0
Damascus — Annika Schwartz 12; Madi Wyatt 12; Suzanne Brady 4; Alex Nelligan 3; Hunter Smith 3; Carly Marella 2.
La Plata — Maggie Lavery 17; Faith Laidley 4; Caitlin Simmons 3; Chanel Motley 2; Desi Proffitt 1; Haylee Breitinger 1.