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Only one checkmark remains for Williamsport

November 18, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - As of Friday night, the checklist for Williamsport's volleyball team looked something like this:

Win the Monocacy Valley Athletic League championship - check.

Win the Class 1A West regional championship - check.

Reach the state championship game for the second straight season - check.

Only one square remains to be filled in - the one after "Win the state title for the first time since 1999."

But before Williamsport can make that final checkmark, the Wildcats will have to deal with a hungry Poolesville squad this afternoon at CCBC-Catonsville.

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"We know we definitely can't underestimate them," Williamsport coach Kristi Gee said. "They showed they're a tough team to reckon with, and we have to be ready to play."

The Wildcats (17-1) have yet to drop a game in the postseason, defeating Westmar, Northern Garrett and Southern Garrett in the West Region and Perryville in the state semifinals.

Poolesville knocked off three area schools - Catoctin, Boonsboro and Smithsburg - to win the South Region, before defeating Loch Raven in three games in its semifinal match.

The Falcons' strength is their defense. Poolesville covers the entire court well, making it difficult for opposing teams' hitters to find holes.

"We watched them in the state semifinal against Loch Raven," Gee said. "They have some height on their team and they seem to play good defense. ... We have to be smart in our hitting choices."

Poolesville's own attack doesn't feature any outstanding athletes, but makes up for that by hitting to all areas of the court, keeping opposing defenses off balance. Jamie Pritchett and Katie Saufley will be key players for Williamsport on defense.

"We saw they can move the ball around (on the attack)," Gee said. "That's something I've worked with our girls on, is being able to adjust to what they're doing after the first or second time. That forces them to find a new way to get the ball to the floor."

The Wildcats' fortunes depend on their passing game. When Williamsport is successful, the Wildcats consistently get the ball to setter Denise Sullivan with its first touch.

"That's the key," Gee said. "If we pass well, we have the hitters who can put the ball away. Everything is dependent on that first pass and then (Sullivan) distributing the ball to our hitters."

Once Sullivan gets the ball, she has several attacking options to choose from, the big two being senior Meggie Miller and junior Lindsey Plotner. It's crucial for the Wildcats to have more than one attack option working against Poolesville.

"I hope we keep them guessing along the front line so they don't know where the set is going at any time," Gee said. "(Miller and Plotner have) been in the state tournament before, they know the pressure they're gonna be under, and they've come through in big matches before."

Without question, Williamsport's final test in it's quest for the state title is also the Wildcats' most difficult - one where every player will have to meet the challenge.

"It takes the whole team," Gee said. "The whole team's gotten us this far, we need them to pull it out (today)."

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