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The power and the glory - Smithsburg sweeps to volleyball title

November 18, 2000

The power and the glory - Smithsburg sweeps to volleyball title



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


CATONSVILLE, Md. - In the end, Heather Ashley had the final say.

It was almost fitting. Ashley had been a dominant middle hitter for the Smithsburg volleyball team her entire career. So when it came time to put the finishing touches on the Maryland Class 1A state title match, it was fitting for the senior to put the punctuation on the Leopards' championship statement.

Ashley stuffed back Rising Sun's last-gasp kill in her usual quick, emphatic fashion to put the finishing touches on Smithsburg's 15-4, 15-11, 15-6 victory Saturday at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville. In the same vein, Ashley wished she had the chance to talk a little longer about Smithsburg's second state title in three years.

"I wanted that last point to last longer," said Ashley, who ended her high school career with the final point. "I wanted to see a long rally with the ball going back and forth awhile before we finished it off."

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So much for poetic justice. Instead, Smithsburg (17-1) went from slow start, to powerful play, to rough returns before settling for a victory on the strength of cagey comebacks and forcing the season to set on Rising Sun. The Leopards skidded through the opening points before getting their power game down to close out the first game.

The second game gave the Leopards about as much adversity as they faced all season - falling behind 9-5 before storming back.

And Game 3 was a testament to finding other ways to win games besides pounding it to the floor.

"We came in here uptight, but (Rising Sun) was more uptight than we were," Smithsburg coach Jim Klein said. "Then reality began to set in and we picked it up. Our offense dictates the play of the game."

After tentatively playing through the first six points of the game, Smithsburg and Rising Sun (15-3) were knotted at 3-3. That's when reality hit the Leopards and Ashley took a more active role.

Ashley patrolled the middle of the floor, first stuffing back a pair of Tigers' spike attempts for the go-ahead points. That turned the game over to Michelle Feiser, who served the next six points, including three finished by Ashley. Then B.J. Greenwood and Ashley served out the game in the next two turns, completing Smithsburg's run of 10 unanswered points.

"Once reality hit, we started to distribute the ball well and our setters did the best they could with some inconsistent passing," Klein said. "I've said it before, our serve receiving sets our attack."

Game 2 had a similar start to the opener. The two teams battled to ties of 1-1, 4-4 and 5-5 before Rising Sun started to click. The Tigers knocked Smithsburg off its game by stuffing the big hits back over the net.

"The second game surprised me and the girls," Rising Sun coach Rich Wilson said. "There was no way I thought we'd block them as well as we did in the middle. We knew they had a great attack with great hitters. The more we blocked, the more swings they kept taking. Then they decided to take something off of their kills. They started to hit around and over our blocks. That's when I looked down the bench and said, 'If they keep doing this, we've had it.'"

Laura Wilson served five straight points to give Rising Sun a 9-5 lead while the Tigers defense pinched in to turn back the spikes of Ashley and Feiser. Katy Powell started Smithsburg on the comeback trail with a pair of kills from the outside to loosen up Rising Sun's defense, turning the game over to Ashley and Feiser and their collection of dinks and spikes.

Greenwood served out the final seven points to allow the Leopards to erase an 11-9 deficit and close out the game.

Smithsburg ran roughshod through the third game, scoring 11 of the first 12 points to withstand a quick scoring burst by Rising Sun before scoring four of the last six points to finish off the championship run on Ashley's block.

"It was nice to put the exclamation point on it," said Ashley, who finished with 16 kills and seven blocks. Feiser served 12 points and added 16 assists to her four kills. Greenwood had 15 service points while Jenelle Stouffer had 11 assists and Powell had nine service points, five digs and five kills.

And in the end, Smithsburg had Rising Sun's respect.

"Smithsburg's game comes through its offense and ours comes through our defense," Wilson said. "Their offense was just better than our defense."

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