It was for all the marbles Friday night as the two best volleyball teams in the Maryland Independent Schools Athletic League faced off on the court for the championship at Southern Maryland Christian Academy in White Plains
The Eagles of King’s Christian Academy came in with an undefeated record and the Knights of Grace Christian Academy entered the matchup with only two conference losses.
And the third meeting of the season between the two teams ended with KCA making history with its first MISAL tournament championship, winning in four sets by scores of 25-19, 22-25, 30-28 and 25-16.
Eagles head coach Ardella Fry said on Sunday that it was all still sinking in as her team completed the 2016 campaign with a perfect 14-0 record.
“It was a lot of fun,” Fry said. “They are really excited; afterwards they were crying, laughing, jumping up and down. They were chatter boxes on the bus all the way down and singing. That’s how it is, but the other team was good and it’s nice to win against a team that’s good. Every year they are our rival, but it’s a happy rival. The girls are always nice on the other team. They know several of the girls by name.”
With the match tied at a set apiece, the third set challenged both squads with its endurance, technical skill and team communication. It featured six set points, but ultimately the Eagles won 30-28 on a mental mistake with a net call whistled against the Knights.
Fry said it came down to trust for her team.
“The girls had never gone up to 30 before. I was on the edge of my seat. My heart was pounding, but I just kept thinking, ‘OK Lord.’ This is where it all comes; you go back and forth and you have to remember to stay calm. That’s what happened in our second game. We lost focus and got too scared. We were letting that excitement of being there get into our head and the girls had to settle and remember to trust each other on the court and use their communication skills and that’s what our girls do really well.”
KCA junior Carmen Doig, named All-MISAL player of the year, led the Eagles with 10 kills and 20 digs. Heidi Harris finished with 10 kills, four aces and 17 digs and Sarah Long had 18 assists, 18 digs, seven kills and five aces. Harris and Long were named to the All-MISAL first team.
Doig said it was when her team put their faith in God, they came back and remained strong, and it was also the team that made it possible for her to win the player of the year award.
“It’s a six-player game. It was an honor to receive the award, but I needed my team with me.” she said. “Tonight, in the second game when things kind of went down, we were starting to lose focus as to why we were there, but God gave us the strength. There was no other way we could have come back and won that. The third set, honestly we prayed. Yeah, we were able to get in their heads a little bit and psych them out a little bit.”
KCA outside hitter Abby Vallejo said it took a little while to get going and moving their feet.
“I feel like we really worked hard. We worked as a team, and even though it took a while to get going, we always end up trusting each other. We always end up fighting for each other. We always try to shake the mistakes off. The team got to me personally and threw me off, but I was able to come back.”
Xela Fry, daughter of the head coach, said she was having flashes of playing in middle school for her mother.
“Oh my goodness. This is just my dream for senior year to end with a good game, especially with people that I love to play,” she said. “I love to play Grace. It’s good competition and we really haven’t had that throughout the season and it’s just a great way to end my senior year.”
Ana Allen and Hannah Melvern earned first team All-MISAL honors for Grace, while Olivia Lanham and Muskan Malhotra received second-team honors and Karleigh Cohen was an honorable mention selection.
“The first time we played them, we were somewhere in never land, we don’t know,” said Allen, a junior, “so the next time we were so determined and motivated to get them. Each game we improved by points, by motivation, by hustle, and this time we didn’t come out victorious, but we gave God all of our strength and power and we got next year.
“It’s great to play a sister school because they’re a first, we’re a second so what else; no one else can challenge us. They have some heavy hitters.”
Melvern, a senior, made her presence known in the third set with a few aces and key points to keep the Knights (10-6) alive.
“I think as a whole, we got in our groove better [in the third set],” Melvern said. “They challenged us to stay level-headed and to not give up and just always fight for the last point.”
Fry said she will return next year to coach the Eagles.
“I started with some of the girls in middle school and I’d like to finish with them. Carmen will be a senior, and I’d like to finish with her.”