Volleyball - Leopards gut it out, sweep Patriots

September 20, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

SMITHSBURG - In one 10-minute stretch Thursday night, Smithsburg's volleyball team turned what could have been a five-set marathon with Thomas Johnson into a three-game sweep.

The Leopards (No. 3 Herald-Mail poll) turned back six game points from the No. 4 Patriots in the second game, rallying to win the game on the way to a 15-9, 16-14, 15-9 victory in a battle of two of the best teams in the area.

"They showed so much heart to come back," Smithsburg coach Alexa Robertson said. "We're down ... and we come back and pull it off. It shows a lot of desire to win."


Both teams played well in spurts, but neither team was able to put together a consistent offensive attack. Side-outs became the norm, with both teams scrapping for points inside the steamy Leopards gym.

Smithsburg (5-0) broke an 8-8 tie in the first game when Katy Powell served six straight points, and the Leopards sealed the game on Heather Bywaters' kill from the back.

The Leopards clawed to an 8-7 lead in the second game, but behind five kills from Erin Maldo four from Lindsey Merchant and two from Jessica Goode, TJ (2-1) took a 14-11 lead.

Knowing a 1-1 tie would bring into play a five-set test of endurance, Smithsburg dug in on defense and held TJ at bay.

"We buckled down at the end of the game, got scrappy and played better defense," Powell, who had 14 kills, 14 service points, six digs and four blocks, said. "Toward the middle and the end of the game, we hit our (defensive) rotations and got to the right spot on the floor."

"We couldn't get (point) 15, and that's a key game," Patriots coach Jim Dorsch said. "If we win that, it's a whole new game. But we couldn't get that last point.

Powell's kill off an assist from Katie Franklin - one of Franklin's 30 assists - won the second game, and Smithsburg put the final touches on in the third game to reamin unbeaten.

"I'm glad we didn't let it go five games," Franklin said. "That's a big thing for us."

Bywaters had 12 kills and Brittany Meadows had six digs for the Leopards.

"We can't rely on just one person, and I think all of them realize they they all have to play key roles for us to win," Robertson said. "We never gave up, we fought to the very end, point for point."

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