- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
COLLEGE PARK – After boasting the most dominant season of any volleyball team within the state, the La Plata Warriors were kept from capping their impressive campaign in style Saturday night at a packed Ritchie Coliseum on the University of Maryland campus.
It took the Damascus Hornets' explosive offense combined with their formidable defense to subdue La Plata in the Class 3A state championship, resulting in the Warriors' only loss of the season.
The Montgomery County outfit swept La Plata in three sets, winning the first two by 25-20 outcomes before overcoming an early deficit in Set 3 to pull away with a 25-15 clinching victory as both programs were vying for their first state crown.
La Plata (18-1 overall) had only dropped two of a possible 56 sets all year leading up to the state-title clash, which was also the farewell showing for accomplished sixth-year Warriors head coach Catherine Lavery.
During her time at La Plata, Lavery turned the Warriors from an average Southern Maryland Athletic Conference program to the marquee team in a talent-laden league and a Maryland power, carrying the Warriors to the state playoffs the last four years.
“We played OK, I've seen my girls play better. I'm proud of them, I have no regrets,” Lavery said after praising Damascus (17-2) for how well it played.
Lavery constructed a record of 87-18, a .829 win percentage, during her time at La Plata, including a 61-11 SMAC tab (.847) and a 15-6 playoff mark (.714).
She was hugged and congratulated by her players and La Plata fans for a long while after an emotional, post-match trophy presentation.
The outgoing La Plata coach said, “If we would've started out strong in that first game and gotten that confidence going, that was all it was [that we needed to control the match]. Blocking was a big fault on our part, but everything else [was fine]. We did a lot of good things that we worked on [in practice]. We were just off our game a little bit. They took us out of our rhythm.”
Maggie Lavery, the coach's daughter, registered a match-best 17 kills, while fellow senior outside hitter Faith Laidley and junior middle hitter Caitlin Simmons each had six kills for La Plata's offense. Laidley also had a match-best 12 digs, while Simmons had a match-best two solo blocks in addition to a pair of assisted blocks. But the production was not enough.
Damascus' athletic, taller front-row weapons were led by seniors Madison Wyatt and Annika Schwartz, who posted 13 and 12 kills, respectively, and sent the bulk of their putaways down with authority.
Damascus owned a 42-32 advantage in kills, while committing 10 less errors on their attacks with a team attack percentage of .294. La Plata's attack percentage was just .101, illustrating Damascus' more efficient offense.
Damascus also had a 42-40 edge in digs and 35-32 upper hand in assists. La Plata was also at a disadvantage in service aces, 6-4.
The Warriors agreed that Damascus was the best team they faced all year long.
“Damascus is a strong team,” Maggie Lavery said. “They came out and were ready to play. We were ready, but we weren't as strong as they were throughout the match.”
The opening two sets began and ended in similar fashion with Damascus getting out to fast starts, leading 8-3 in Set 1 and 6-2 in Set 2 before holding off La Plata rallies.
La Plata tied the opening set at 10 and then erased a 15-11 hole by knotting the score at 15. The second set saw La Plata get to within 16-15.
But in each set, Damascus refused to surrender the momentum to La Plata, thanks to clutch kills and persistence defense to thwart would-be Warriors points.
Set 3 saw La Plata take its first lead of the match by jumping out to 6-2 lead. Damascus never panicked, tying the score at 6 on an improbable dig off a lunging foot. After La Plata won the next point, Damascus went on an 11-0 run to essentially claim the set, match and state gold.
“We weren't expecting their defense to be that good,” Laidley admitted about Damascus.
“If [my players] were on fire, we could've taken [the 3A final],” Catherine Lavery said. “But it's OK. It's part of life. You lose and hold your head up.”