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'Cats scratch out fevered finish for win

November 11, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Williamsport isn't ready to give up the Maryland Class 1A volleyball crown just yet.

The two-time defending state champion Wildcats fended off a difficult challenge from the determined Boonsboro Warriors on Wednesday. Sammi Snodderly had 20 kills and Lacie Johnson added 17 as the Wildcats avenged a loss to Boonsboro earlier in the season with a 25-20, 25-27, 25-17, 14-25, 15-11 victory in the West semifinals.

"Usually, people cheer for the underdogs," Snodderly said. "We had to show them we're not ready to lose, not ready to stop the tradition."

With large groups of students from both schools cheering on their teams - turning Williamsport's gym into a festival-like atmosphere - Beth Ryan closed the match out with a kill on the final point.

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"Coming into it, we knew it was going to be a battle, just like the last time was," Wildcats coach Emily Crabtree said. "We knew what was on the line this time, and it made us play a little harder. Boonsboro played hard, too. They've been on a mission since last year. This wasn't a game either team wanted to lose."

The Warriors (15-2) fell to Williamsport in last year's regional final, but believed this was their year after beating the Wildcats (16-2) 21-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-23 at Boonsboro on Oct. 21.

Instead, it was more heartbreak for Boonsboro, which fell behind 1-0 and 2-1, but rallied in Game 2 - overcoming a 19-13 deficit - and blitzed Williamsport in Game 4 before falling short in the final game.

"I think we've had a great season. We played hard. I think tonight they just outplayed us," Warriors coach Wendi Smith said. "This was almost like a state semifinal game. Both teams are two of the best teams in the state in Class 1A."

With Game 5 tied at 6-6, Williamsport won straight four points - the final three coming on Snodderly's kill and two Ryan aces - to take control. Snodderly had three more kills in the game, Lea Drury's ace made it 14-11 and Ryan finished it off on the next point.

"(Coach) laid out the facts to us that they're going to be our competition, and we needed to come together as a team and pull through," said Drury, who finished with 26 assists.

"There was so much energy that fifth game," Johnson said. "Eventually, we just pulled ahead and picked it up as a team."

Snodderly and Johnson both had five kills in Game 1 as - like the first time these two teams played - Williamsport grabbed the early lead.

But just like the first time, Boonsboro came back to win Game 2. Caitlyn Selby had three kills and three aces and Jessie Ambrose added three kills as the Warriors pulled out a game they had to have. Williamsport made seven errors down the stretch to help out.

"That's what we did (at Boonsboro), we came out strong and fizzled," Crabtree said. "We came out strong tonight and somewhat fizzled. It was just a back and forth roller coaster ride, us, them, us, them."

Snodderly and Johnson each had three kills, Ryan had two and Williamsport's defense put the clamps on Boonsboro as the Wildcats regained momentum in Game 3.

"We knew we had to cover the lines and deep, and we were on our toes for their tips," Johnson said. "We got caught a few times, but we moved pretty fast tonight."

"We played better defensively tonight than we did down there, and that might have been the difference," Crabtree said.

Sure enough, back came the Warriors in Game 4, capitalizing on a slip in intensity on Williamsport's part. Runs of 5-0 and 6-0 gave Boonsboro a quick 13-3 lead, and the Wildcats committed 14 errors.

Unfortunately for Boonsboro, the momentum failed to carry over to the final game.

"All my starters will be returning next year, and we'll continue to work hard," Smith said.

Williamsport will play at Southern Garrett - a 3-1 winner over Smithsburg - either Friday or Saturday in the regional final.

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