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'Cats return to 1A final

November 18, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

ESSEX, Md. - Sammi Snodderly believes in ghosts.

It was the best way to explain the feeling when the Williamsport junior hitter bounced the final kill off a Poolesville defender on Wednesday in the Maryland Class 1A semifinals at Essex Community College.

"I just wanted to get it," Snodderly said, almost breathlessly after it was all over. "When you get into the semifinals, everyone wants to be in that spot. It feels great because it keeps the tradition going."

Snodderly and the Wildcats called on the memories of Williamsport past in the Williamsport present to make sure there was the possibility of a Willliamsport future. The Wildcats fought off Poolesville in a grueling fourth game and overcame the Falcons for a 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 25-23 victory and a chance to win a third straight state title on Saturday.

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It was Williamsport at its scrappy best at the best of times. Despite its 17-1 record, the Wildcats have been tested more often than in past years, but it has made them what they are today.

"Sammi does what she needs to do to win," Williamsport coach Emily Crabtree said. "We have a lot of girls like that. They know what they need to do and the team does it."

The Wildcats have that supernatural feeling about it. Gone are the Megan Millers and Lindsey Plotners whose presence and height have led Williamsport over the last couple of years, but the foundation they helped reinforce set the same standards as the school competed in its 18th state tournament.

It started well for Williamsport, which played efficiently in the first game. The Wildcats resorted to some needed fight in the second game to come back from a five-point deficit to take a 2-0 lead.

But then, anticipation took over before the job was done.

"When we were down, I called timeout and told them that they could do this. They had done it before," Crabtree said. "I told them that they just needed to come back one point at a time and they did. But after that, they started to talk about celebrating. I had to remind them that it took three games to win a match."

Williamsport lost its edge in the third game as Poolesville big front line of 5-foot-11 Jen Ogden and 6-0 Maureen DuVall helped the Falcons hold off elimination with the win to get back into the match.

The two teams battled in the fourth game, see-sawing back and fourth on the scoreboard. With the game tied at 9-9, each side put together a slew of runs to rock the momentum of the match back and forth.

"We definitely got tested," said Snodderly. "We got caught up and let our nerves take over some. We've done that before but then we have to step back and when we come back we get pumped."

Poolesville broke the tie with four straight points before Beth Ryan served the Wildcats back into the game with six straight points - two off kills by Lacie Johnson - to put Williamsport back on top, 15-13.

After two more ties, Poolesville moved to a 19-18 lead before Lea Drury took her turn to add to the Williamsport tradition. Drury served three straight aces - nearly half of her seven for the match - to put Williamsport back into the lead while forcing the Falcons to call time to calm the momentum.

"I just wanted to get the ball in," Drury said. "When you get into times like that, the court seems so small. I just really wanted this."

Poolesville came back to tie the game at 21-21, but Snodderly took over.

Snodderly put down two critical blocks on DuVall, the second to give Williamport a 24-23 lead and put it on the doorstep of the finals. On each stuff, Snodderly danced and celebrated her big plays.

"Sammi came to life in the fourth game when we needed it," Crabtree said. "Those were two big blocks. She doesn't get many blocks so those were a real big deal for her."

Emily Malott put game point into play. The action shifted over for a third time to Snodderly and DuVall, but this time Snodderly slammed the kill off Duvall's hands and out of bounds to seal the victory.

"They were strong blockers up front and had some good setters," Snodderly said. "They were big and I just decided to play if off the block."

Snodderly finished with 13 kills and 46 digs while Drury added 14 assists and 32 digs to her aces. Johnson had 13 kills and Ryan added 13 assists in the win which moves Williamsport into Saturday's 5 p.m. final against either Loch Raven or Elkton at Ritchie Coliseum on the University of Maryland campus.

"It's awesome," Drury said. "Winning this is very important to us because of the tradition and we want to live up to the expectations."

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