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Blazers' upset of Wildcats opens Antietam eyes

September 22, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

It's going to be difficult for first-year Clear Spring coach Kim Malphurs to have a more memorable match than Tuesday's five-game upset of four-time defending Maryland Class 1A state champion Williamsport.

In a back-and-forth struggle at Williamsport, the Blazers edged the Wildcats 21-25, 25-20, 16-25, 25-21, 15-10 to serve notice that they are to be taken seriously in the MVAL Antietam.

"It was very intense," Malphurs said. "The atmosphere, it just seemed kind of surreal. Williamsport's team, they're good and there's that whole aura. With my girls, I just felt the fearlessness. They executed, they finished, we never quit and neither did Williamsport.

"It was just a battle - a point here, point there, a block, a dig - it was so fun. It was how it should be. The girls just seemed to go at each other. Neither team quit. It was fun, and it was good volleyball."

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Coming off such an emotional high, Clear Spring had an emotional letdown Thursday, getting swept 25-13, 25-18, 25-18 by Smithsburg. The loss dampened - but does not totally drown - the Blazers' accomplishment Tuesday.

"This is a normal thing that's going to happen for us, and it makes us appreciate the good things when they come," Malphurs said. "I didn't expect us to do so well so early, not that I expected us to fail, but (beating Williamsport) was exciting. Now the job is to keep them grounded and to say, 'Hey, if you don't come to play, this is what happens.'"

Sophomore Mandi Jenkins had 17 kills and 17 digs against Williamsport. Senior Lynsee Vincent had eight kills, sophomore Katelyn Blickenstaff (19 assists) and junior Emily Steinacker (16 assists) ran the offense and sophomore Emily Pinkham and freshman Lindsay Lacy hurt Williamsport from the service line with seven aces each.

"The girls seem to just jell, and I have a hard time not doing extra practice all the time," Malphurs said. "They want to stay in the gym and practice hard. They want to be pushed hard and they want to go for it."

"It" is the MVAL Antietam title, which seems to be up for grabs. Most of the matches that count toward the standings will be played in October, but as Tuesday proved, the intensity is already picking up.

The contenders are lining up ... and the Blazers are right there.

"The games just seem to be more interesting, and they're more exciting because you know you're not being judged on the past," Malphurs said. "There's a lot of talent out there that's evenly matched, and you think, 'Why not us?'"

Games to watch this week

No. 7 Clear Spring (2-1) at Boonsboro (2-2) and Catoctin (4-1) at Williamsport (2-2), Tuesday - The Blazers-Warriors matchup does not count toward the MVAL Antietam standings, so that meeting is just for bragging rights. The Cougars-Wildcats one, however, does count - it's the only time this season those two teams meet, and judging by Catoctin's record through Wednesday, it's not going to be a cakewalk for Williamsport.

No. 3 Greencastle (6-0) at Williamsport, Wednesday - And it just doesn't get any easier for the Wildcats. The Blue Devils already have a sweep of perennial power (though injury-depleted) Chambersburg on their record. But wait, that's not all for Williamsport ...

Williamsport at Boonsboro, Thursday - ... because then the Wildcats have to turn around and play their third match in three nights, on the road at what has become their fiercest rival.

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