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Williamsport tops Fort Hill

November 09, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

CUMBERLAND, Md. - Williamsport sophomore Cayla Broadwater was not the best player on Fort Hill's court during Wednesday night's Maryland Class 1A West volleyball semifinal. But she was the best player when it mattered most.

After winning the first two games, the third-seeded and four-time defending Class 1A state champion Wildcats' usual aggressive style vanished in a sea of errors, while the second-seeded Sentinels elevated their own attack to win Game 3 and take the lead in Game 4.

With the outcome suddenly in doubt, Broadwater lit a fuse from her middle-hitter position with four kills down the stretch, and Brittany Horn finished the match with the last of her nine kills as the Wildcats escaped with a 25-23, 25-18, 18-25, 25-23 victory.

Trailing 18-15 in Game 4, Broadwater blasted three kills in a four-point run to give Williamsport (13-4) a 19-18 lead. Her fourth and final kill of the game tied it at 21.

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"It came down to the point that I wanted to get out of here in four games," said, Broadwater, who had six kills total in the match. "I had to decide that now is the time I really wanted it."

"She came through at big-time times when we needed it in the fourth game," Wildcats coach Emily Crabtree said. "That's huge for a sophomore to handle that (pressure) and do what she's capable of doing. It should be a tremendous confidence boost."

An ace by Jessica Bennett and a double-block by Horn and Hailee Growden gave Williamsport a 23-21 lead. After a Fort Hill kill, a service error made it 24-22 and gave the Wildcats two match points. The Sentinels (12-4) staved off the first with another kill, but Horn made the second match point count.

Williamsport mixed flashes of brilliance with maddening inconsistency in each of the first two games. At times, the Wildcats' attack was impressive. Bennett had nine of her 13 kills in the first two game, and Growden added six of her 10 kills. Christine Barnes finished the match with 18 assists and Lindsey Kneisley had 14.

And even though Williamsport committed 13 errors in the first two games combined - most of them coming in the passing game - Fort Hill made 22 errors combined, giving the Wildcats enough free points to overcome the inconsistency.

"(Fort Hill) was tipping the ball a lot instead of hitting it the first two games, and it kind of threw us off, though we were able to overcome it," Crabtree.

Then after taking a 12-5 lead in Game 3 and appearing well on their way to a sweep, the Wildcats fell apart while the Sentinels started swinging like there was no tomorrow. Suddenly, it was Williamsport committing errors (12 in Game 3), backpedaling and being tentative, and Fort Hill won 20 of the last 26 points in Game 3 and 17 of the first 26 in Game 4 to turn a blowout into a barn-burner.

"(Fort Hill) changed their whole game. Suddenly, they started hitting it and it fooled us," Crabtree said. "We weren't hitting behind the ball or getting on top of it. Our power game was missing."

Until Broadwater rediscovered it and helped save the Wildcats.

Brittany Malott had 26 digs, Bennett had 16, Growden 15 and Jessica Ellis 10 for Williamsport, which will travel to top-seed Southern Garrett - a 3-0 winner over fourth-seed Boonsboro - on Friday for the Class 1A West final at 7 p.m.

"We just really need to focus," Crabtree said. "We need to keep our heads in it, play like we can play and not dig a hole for ourselves. Thank goodness Game 3 wasn't the first game. We need to come out with an attitude, with confidence and with determination, because one loss and our season's over."

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