In a sport where height is imperative and almost typically a prerequisite, Great Mills High School sophomore defensive specialist Lauren Long certainly made the most of her diminutive frame in the Hornets’ five-set victory at Patuxent on Monday evening in the season opener for both teams.
Great Mills won the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division contest, 17-25, 25-21, 25-18, 12-25, 15-9.
In her first varsity match, Long not only made plays with her feet in the back row chasing down serves and attack points from Patuxent players to make quality passes to setter Emily Turner, she delivered six straight service winners during the most crucial moment of the match. When Long went back to serve in the fifth set, the Hornets and Panthers were tied at 5.
“I was a little nervous when I went back to serve, but I just focused on doing what I could to help my team win,” Long said. “I felt pretty good once I started serving. I was able to just stay focused and serve the ball to the right spot.”
Long went back and served six straight winners to lift the Hornets to an 11-5 lead. But the Panthers responded with a sideout point, then Emma Poteet added three straight winners to trim the gap to 11-9. Turner then set Hannah Jarboe for a key sideout point, then Jarboe reeled off three straight winners with Hannah Torgesen delivering a Turner set for the match point kill.
“It felt amazing,” Torgesen said of her game-winner. “It always feels good to make a kill, but that one really felt good. The momentum went back-and-forth all night. Lauren was amazing. For her to be able to go out and make those plays and those serves in her first varsity match was really nice.”
After taking the second and third sets, Great Mills (1-0, 1-0 SMAC Chesapeake) watched Patuxent break open a tight fourth set on a prolonged service run from sophomore setter Alayna Sievert. Patuxent coasted to a 25-12 victory in the fourth set and looked to have all the momentum heading into the fifth set.
“Momentum is a funny thing,” Great Mills head coach Bill Plotner said. “It usually carries over from point to point, but doesn’t always carry over from game to game. It looked like they had all the momentum after they handled us that fourth set, but we got it back when Lauren started serving well in the fifth set.”
Long’s service run in the fifth set proved to be the underlying theme of the match. During her six straight winners, Long recorded only one ace and Patuxent had chances to run plays off the other five. Sievert got the ball to hitters Swyn Smith and Jasmin Johnson, but neither failed to deliver on four attempts and suddenly the Hornets owned an 11-5 lead.
“Give credit to Great Mills for making plays, but we made way too many mistakes,” Patuxent head coach Kevin Keller said. “Maybe the girls were looking past them after that first set because we had beaten them in a scrimmage earlier this summer. I thought Alayna did a really nice job setting. We just had way too many unforced errors.”
Patuxent (0-1, 0-1) had gained the upper hand in the match by taking the opener behind prolonged service runs from Jade McGrath, Sievert and libero Poteet. With the set tied at 13, McGrath reeled off four straight winners, then later Poteet ended the set with four straight winners of her own.
The Panthers sprinted to a 10-2 lead in the second set courtesy of a long service run from Johnson that included a pair of aces and three other serves that Great Mills failed to send back across the net. But the Hornets climbed back into contention on service runs from Jarboe, Andrea Datan and Long, who had three straight winners, including a pair of aces to snap a 20-20 deadlock and later a Jarboe ace ended it.
Great Mills then enjoyed a quick start to the third set behind a service run from Turner and another from Datan to go up 10-5. But later it was outside hitter Hannah Torgesen who virtually sealed it with four straight service winners, including three aces, for a 21-12 lead. Long ended that set with a pair of service winners.
In the fourth set, a long service run from Sievert gave the Panthers an early 7-2 lead and the teams primarily traded points until Sievert reeled off seven straight service winners later in the set to push the Panthers’ lead to 22-11.
That set ended with a pair of aces from Johnson and the teams were tied at two sets apiece although the Panthers had outscored the Hornets, 89-79.