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Falcons end Leopards' title reign

November 11, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

POOLESVILLE, Md. - The Smithsburg volleyball team wasn't used to shedding these kinds of tears.

The last two years, the Leopards ended their seasons with the joyful variety that come with winning the state championship. On Friday night, they found out what it's like to be on the other side.

Smithsburg's dream of a third straight title ended in stunning fashion as the Leopards fell to Poolesville 3-15, 15-13, 0-15, 15-7, 15-13 in the Class 1A South final.

When Poolesville (10-6) successfully scored the winning point on a blocked kill, the Falcons leapt in the air and started celebrating. It wasn't long afterward that the tears started flowing on Smithsburg's bench, as the Leopards (14-2) sought reasons why and how this could happen.

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"I don't know right now," said senior setter Katie Franklin, who had 60 assists. "Everything we did, we tried our best and played hard as a team. I don't understand why we didn't win. ... I couldn't believe it. We were supposed to go to states, and that's where we'd face our toughest competition.

"It just wasn't meant to be."

In truth, there are reasons why Smithsburg lost. The Leopards showed glimpses of the firepower and potential they have when they play their best - as easy victories in Games 1 and 3 showed - and at other times struggled, particularly in their serving game and in their finishing.

"We didn't serve well toward the end, and we didn't finish points," said Smithsburg senior Katy Powell, who had 35 kills, 16 service points and six blocks. "You can't take anything away from them, they played well. ... We played to the best of our potential those two games, and the other three, we let down a little bit."

"I think we were playing not to lose," Smithsburg coach Alexa Robertson said. "Against a team like this, you have to play full force all the time."

But in retrospect, there are more reasons why Poolesville won.

The Falcons won with an attack that, for what it lacked in intimidation, it made up for with intelligence and effectiveness. They also won with a defense that scrapped for every kill attempt the Leopards threw at them, especially after Poolesville fell behind 10-2 in the deciding Game 5. Slowly but surely, Poolesville pulled itself from elimination to take a 14-12 lead.

"They're a scrappy team, and they dug everything," Robertson said. "Hits we thought we'd get points out of, they dug out of the blue."

"They were definetly scrappy," Franklin said. "They were smart, and they played well on the court."

Smithsburg didn't give in without a fight. The Leopards fought off four match points, and got to 14-13. But they couldn't come up with the points they needed to keep their season going.

But in no way does that diminish what Smithsburg has accomplished the last three years. Seniors Powell, Franklin and Jenna Warrenfeltz (21 service points Friday) may have ended their high school careers in a different fashion than they wanted, but when the tears dry, no one can take away their achievements over the past four years.

"We really wanted this one as a team," Powell, whose tears had yet to dry, said. "Sometimes, this happens. Hopefully, the team will learn from it and be better next year."

"I could not have asked for a better team to begin my coaching career with," Robertson said. "We played 20 games (including tournaments), and all 20 games we played our hearts out. They've accomplished a lot and they have nothing to be ashamed of."

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