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Blazers join list of contenders

November 03, 2007|By Dan Kauffman

CLEAR SPRING - The list of Maryland Class 1A West volleyball title contenders this year is a long one - defending champion Southern Garrett, Fort Hill, Boonsboro and perennial powers Poolesville and Williamsport all feel they can win it all.

Then there's Clear Spring, poised and ready to make some serious noise.

The Blazers' powerful serves put too much pressure on a young Smithsburg squad that will see better days in the near future, and Clear Spring swept the Leopards 25-13, 25-22, 25-17 in the first round Friday night.

On tap - a quarterfinal showdown Monday at Williamsport that figures to be every bit as close as the Wildcats' MVAL Antietam-clinching five-game victory on Oct. 22.

"We learned we have to cover their hitters," Blazers junior Emily Pinkham said of Williamsport. "They have great hitters, and our blockers and our (back row) have to work together. I think we can do it."

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"The pressure at the net sometimes gets to us," Clear Spring coach Kim Malphurs said. "They play a faster game than we're used to. We need to stay focused on defense. Everything else is gelling."

Facing a Leopards team with just one senior in the starting lineup, Clear Spring (9-6) made its serves count, putting Smithsburg (7-8) on its heels from the start. Lindsay Lacy opened Game 1 with eight straight points, including two aces, and Pinkham had six kills as the Blazers started fast.

"We work on that a lot," Malphurs said. "That's something we've been striving for, and this is the time of year you hope it comes together. ... (Emily) has really stepped it up this time of year. We've talked about stepping it up, and she's really taken that to heart. She has stepped up when we needed it."

With Game 2 tied at 22, Emily Steinacker served three straight points - including a deep ace Smithsburg could not handle on game point - to give Clear Spring a two-game lead.

Then in Game 3, Amanda Jenkins served eight straight points, including five aces off her line-drive rockets, for a 14-6 lead. Lacy added four straight points later in the game to make it 21-13 and the Blazers put away the Leopards.

"They served great," Smithsburg coach Rachel Bachtell said. "In Game 1 and Game 3 they had a rotation where they reeled off seven or eight points, and it's hard to battle back from that. We were in Game 2 and we were in Game 3 until that run.

"What we lack is game experience, playoff experience. Three or four of our starting six have no playoff experience. We're very young but very promising. ... We're definitely heading in the right direction."

Pinkham finished with 12 kills and three aces, while Jenkins had seven kills and 14 service points, including seven aces, for Clear Spring. Lacy had 20 service points, Hannah House had five kills and Steinacker and Katie Blickenstaff each had 12 assists. The Blazers had 15 aces in all.

Valerie Smith had 18 assists and Colleen Black had eight kills and six blocks for Smithsburg. Sara Rishell had five kills and Nikki Siefert added four. Taylor Belella had seven service points and Mallory Petty added five.

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