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'Cats back in 1A final

November 17, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - At first, the going was easy for Williamsport's volleyball team in the Maryland Class 1A semifinals Wednesday at Ritchie Coliseum.

Then, when Rising Sun made the going difficult, Wildcats seniors Sammi Snodderly and Lacie Johnson - the two three-year starters who are trying to go out with their third state title - simply refused to lose.

Snodderly had seven of her 16 kills in Game 4, and Johnson added five of her 10 kills in the final game as they spearheaded Williamsport's elimination of the Tigers, 25-12, 25-23, 21-25, 25-22.

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Williamsport (15-3) will play Poolesville for the championship Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum.

"(Rising Sun) was in the 2A state final last year, so I knew this wouldn't be a cakewalk," Wildcats coach Emily Crabtree said.

But for one game, it looked like one. Williamsport came out firing on all cylinders and overpowered Rising Sun (14-4) in Game 1. Lauren Brown had three blocks, Emily Malott two blocks and a kill, Snodderly three kills, Johnson and Jessica Bennett two kills each and Lea Drury eight assists.

But once the Tigers changed their defensive set - dropping extra players back to deal with Williamsport's power - and brought in talented freshman Lindsay Monger to wreck havoc as an outside hitter, momentum steadily shifted.

Suddenly, it was the three-time defending champs who were on their heels - and it took the leadership of Snodderly and Johnson to get out of it.

"Talk about ups and downs," Crabtree said. "We came out like gangbusters, then we had a little letdown ... and I told them, 'You act like you don't want to win,' and they said, 'Watch this!'"

"Coach pretty much told us we were playing like we didn't want to win, and we turned it on," said Johnson, who also had 23 digs to match Malott for the team lead.

Williamsport somehow found a way to win Game 2 after watching leads of 15-8 and 17-11 evaporate as Monger took center stage and her youthful fearlessness sparked Rising Sun. Amanda Coale and Amy Krummel combined with Monger for seven kills down the stretch, and the Tigers took a 23-21 lead. But the Wildcats finished out the game on a 4-0 run off two Rising Sun errors, a Brown block and her kill to win it.

However, the momentum the Tigers had built continued into Game 3, and from start to finish they were the better team in the game, holding leads of 12-6, 16-9, 19-11 and 22-13. A late 6-0 Wildcats run made the game closer on the scoreboard than it actually was.

"We got into some kind of funk, some kind of downward spiral, and it was hard to get out of it," Crabtree said. "That's happened to us a couple of times this season. We play tough the first game and the second game we think we can lay back a little bit, and you can't do that, especially at this level. You have to play with intensity the whole match."

"I guess they just needed some time to get together on the court," Snodderly said of Rising Sun. "We kind of overlooked them. ... We thought after Boonsboro it'd be easier, but after this game, we know it will be tough (Friday)."

Snodderly and Johnson came out swinging in Game 4, but the Tigers were up to the challenge at first, taking a 17-13 lead, However, behind two Snodderly kills, one kill each from Bennett and Brown and two Rising Sun hitting errors, the Wildcats took a 19-17 lead.

Rising Sun tied it at 19-19, and the teams traded points until 22-22, as Williamsport closed out the match on a Johnson kill, a Tigers error and Snodderly's back-row kill that sent the Wildcats on to Friday's final and a shot at a state-record 12th title.

"The senior class, every year you want them to go out with a bang," Crabtree said. "This senior class, all they've ever done is win state titles. They don't know anything else. Maybe they don't know how to lose it. I hope so."

Lea Drury had 41 assist - 15 in Game 4 - for Williamsport. Snodderly had 17 digs, Malott and Brown had five blocks each, Brown finished with six kills and Bennett had 12 digs and seven kills.

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