Perhaps it seemed only fitting that the Leonardtown High School volleyball team’s long journey to its first 4A state semifinal appearance would require a trek to distant Harford Community College on Tuesday evening, where the Raiders made quick work of a previously unbeaten foe.

Leonardtown has developed a flare for dramatic contests all season, needing five sets to beat Northern in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Championship game, then edging Broadneck on the road in a five-set thriller to take the 4A East Region crown before advancing to the state semifinals by upending visiting Urbana in the state quarterfinals in five sets.

On Tuesday evening at Harford, in the first of two 4A state semifinals, Leonardtown made quick work of previously unbeaten Wootton, 25-15, 25-23 and 25-19. The Raiders dominated the first and third sets as the final scores indicated, but they had to display some grit and mettle in the second game, one in which Wootton led by as three points on five different occasions.

“I think the one thing about this team is they play with so much heart,” said Leonardtown coach Steve Correll, whose team was scheduled to face Arundel in Thursday’s 4A State Championship match on Thursday, Nov. 18. “We’ve been in so many close, touch matches. We’ve had a lot of matches that went five sets and then the fifth game was 15-13. Those matches really prepared us for this.”

Boasting nine seniors, Leonardtown had benefited from talent, skill, experience and chemistry in numerous close matches leading up to the state semifinals and Tuesday evening all were in play. Even when the Raiders trailed in the second set, they remained confident and loose and closed out that game in strong fashion and left little doubt they were the better team in the third.

“We all work so well together as a unit,” said senior outside hitter Samantha Newton. “We’re like a jellyfish. No matter what the score was, we didn’t let it bother us. To be playing for a state championship now is so unexpected. I don’t think anyone expected us to be here.”

Leonardtown could not have asked for a better start to Tuesday’s semifinal clash with the previously unbeaten Patriots. Early service runs from seniors Kira Snyder and Samantha Newton vaulted the Raiders to an 8-3 lead and they never looked back.

Later another service run from senior middle hitter Shannen Litten pushed the Leonardtown lead to 21-9 and the outcome was never in doubt.

Wootton (18-1) led by as many as three points on five different occasions in the second set and as late as 13-10, but the Raiders rallied on service runs from Julia Bobrowski and Litten and Snyder set Newton, Bobrowski, Litten and Emily Boyd for points that eventually lifted Leonardtown to a 25-23 lead with Bobrowski providing game point on a kill.

Bolstered by the late surge, Leonardtown left little doubt it was the best team in the third set. A service run from Mia Huff broke an early deadlock and lifted the Raiders to a 10-6 lead and later another service run from libero Emily Gaddis propelled them to a 20-13 advantage that virtually sealed the verdict. The teams traded side out points after the Raiders forged a comfortable 23-17 lead.

“We really don’t have any division-I players on this team,” Snyder said. “When you look across at those other teams a lot of them have [Division I] players. We just all work together so well. Last spring during that shortened season really helped us grow together as a team.”

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews