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State title was won out West

November 22, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - In reality, Williamsport's volleyball team won its 11th Class 1A state title - and third straight crown - on Saturday by sweeping Elkton 25-16, 25-15, 25-14 at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.

But in hindsight, one could say the Wildcats won it in the 1A West semifinals on Nov. 12.

That's the day Williamsport knocked off its most serious threat by eliminating Boonsboro in a 25-20, 25-27, 25-17, 14-25, 15-11 thriller that, quite simply, could have gone either way.

All season long, it was thought this might be the year the Wildcats - with only one returning starter from 2003 - were knocked off. And the Warriors - fresh off a regional final appearance against Williamsport and with five starters back - were ready to assume the throne.

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"We knew beating Boonsboro was huge," Williamsport coach Emily Crabtree said. "We knew what we had to do to get back to states, and we knew we'd face Boonsboro somewhere along the path, and we were ready for it. They really wanted to prove they were good enough to come back here and win another title."

How did it happen?

First, Crabtree and assistant coach Ann Reynolds went to work filling the gaps left from the departures of the five starters who graduated.

Where Lindsey Plotner used to finish off points emphatically, there stepped Sammi Snodderly, who led the area in kills per game this year.

Where Staci Grabill used to set up Williamsport's attack, there stepped Lea Drury and Beth Ryan, who both more than capably ran the offense.

Where Katie Saufley used to attack on the outside, there stepped Lacie Johnson, who became a valuable asset thanks to her leaping and hitting ability.

And where Kristen Weir provided both an offensive and defensive presence in the middle, there stepped Lauren Brown and Emily Malott, contributing a kill or block here and there as needed.

"You try to put people in the right places and hope they jell and work well as a team, and they were able to do that," Crabtree said.

From there, it was a matter of working together throughout the season to become yet another cohesive and formidable band of Wildcats.

"When we started out this season, we knew nobody wanted us to win," Ryan said. "We used every practice to get better because we know we weren't the team to beat. Boonsboro was."

And although Boonsboro beat Williamsport in four games in the teams' regular-season meeting, Williamsport got the job done in the regional semifinals.

"We knew once we got past Boonsboro ... the other teams were tough, but they were the team to beat," Snodderly said. "We knew we had to step up and beat them."

From there, tradition - both the Wildcats' own and that of Washington County Class 1A West teams, which have won the state title six straight years and 14 of the last 17 - dictated the final result.

"The West is the hardest region in the state," Crabtree said. "When (other teams) get here, it's like, 'Wow, I've never seen anybody like this before.'"

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