In the moments after she had played an integral role in helping the visiting Patuxent High School volleyball team topple rival Calvert in four sets in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division match on Wednesday, Panthers junior outside hitter Jasmin Johnson had already downplayed the season opener two nights earlier.
Patuxent (1-1, 1-1 SMAC Chesapeake) had suffered a five-set defeat at home against Great Mills on Monday on a night when Johnson and fellow outside hitter Swyn Smith struggled during the fifth set despite receiving solid sets from sophomore Alayna Sievert.
Wednesday evening at Calvert, in the season opener for the Cavaliers (0-1, 0-1), Johnson and her teammates were considerably more fluid running their attack. Patuxent toppled the hosts in four sets, 25-20, 16-25, 25-18, 25-17 in an early clash among longtime Class 2A South Region rivals.
“Don’t even remind me about Monday night,” Johnson said in reference to the opener against Great Mills. “We already put that one behind us. Tonight, we did a much better job picking each other up. We got beat pretty good the second set, but we went back to doing things right the third and fourth sets. It’s only the second match, but I already feel like I have a connection with Alayna.”
The two teams were virtually inseparable in the opening set until Sievert reeled off four straight service winners to vault the Panthers to a 19-13 lead. But the underlying theme of that run evolved around her counterpart, Calvert senior setter Brooke Young, who lofted ideal sets for her outside hitters who failed to deliver for the Cavaliers.
A brief service run from Johnson gave Patuxent ample breathing room and the visitors easily withstood a late service run by Calvert outside hitter Briana Stockton. Then Johnson provided the set-winner when she delivered a set from Sievert for a kill, only her second of the set.
Patuxent owned an early 5-1 lead in the second set and later led 13-10 before Calvert displayed its first hint of resiliency. Middle hitter Danielle Hallberg reeled off four straight winners to give the Cavaliers a 15-13 lead and outside hitter Alexandra Herron followed with six straight winners, including three aces, to put the hosts up 22-15. Stockton then ended the set with a pair of aces for a 25-16 Calvert triumph.
The next two sets played out among similar lines.
With Patuxent leading 15-14 in the third set and reserve Grace Wilson serving, Panthers libero Emma Poteet made an improbable, left-handed dig that landed just over the net for a point and the visitors later went up 18-14 with Wilson serving.
Leading 21-18 following a service error by Calvert, Sievert sealed the verdict in the third set by rattling off four straight winners. Johnson had one kill on a free ball and another off a Sievert set and the Panthers prevailed 25-18 to take a two sets to one lead in the match.
Neither team could gain the upper hand in the early stages of the fourth set, but Calvert faltered over the latter portion. Patuxent got brief service runs from Sievert, Johnson and Wilson to forge a commanding 21-10 lead despite the superb efforts of Young, who often eschewed setting her teammates to record left-handed kills in a genuine display of ambidextrous skill.
“Working in my left-handed attack is something new for me,” said Young, who has committed to Randolph-Macon College (Va.) for volleyball. “It’s something I wanted to work into my game. I love working with my outside hitters. They’re all different. We have the same girls this year, but we’re a different team. We have a lot more chemistry. Tonight was just our first match and we’re looking forward to playing Patuxent again.”
A Johnson kill off another Sievert set brought the Panthers to match point at 24-15, but Young set Herron for a kill then Calvert’s Taylor Jackson recorded an ace before Patuxent’s Alyssa Eells ended the match with a crisp, naturally left-handed kill.
“I could not have done it without my teammates,” Eells said. “It was great to get the game-winning point, but my teammates put me in position to do it.”
Patuxent will seek its second straight victory today at home against Thomas Stone, while Calvert will travel to McDonough today in quest of its first victory of the 2019 season. Both matches are scheduled for 5:30 p.m.