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Leopards advance to state final

November 19, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

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    COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The undefeated Smithsburg volleyball team literally aced its Maryland Class 1A state semifinal test Thursday night.

    Taylor Belella set state tournament rally-scoring records for aces in a game and a match, and Belella and the Class 1A West champion Leopards set a record with 29 total aces as they overwhelmed Class 1A South champion Surrattsville 25-1, 25-2, 25-7 at Ritchie Coliseum on the University of Maryland campus.

    "I just knew I had to get back there and get the ball in," Belella said. "Sometimes I look for spots and sometimes I just want to get it in."

    Smithsburg (18-0) will look to finish off its undefeated season with its first state championship in eight years and sixth overall when the Leopards face Catoctin (7-11) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum. The 1A North champion Cougars stunned 1A East champion Patterson Mill (18-2) 13-25, 27-25, 26-24, 25-22 in the second semifinal.

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Belella served 16 straight points -- including 11 aces -- to close out Game 1 and break the mark of seven aces in a game by Rising Sun's Amy Krummel in 2004.

Belella added another ace in Game 2 for 12 in all to break the match record of 11 set by Glenelg's Casey Schmidt last year.

"I didn't know they were records. It's great," Belella said. "I'm just focused on the team and us doing well as a whole.

"I couldn't wait for tonight's match. I'm really looking forward to Saturday."

Smithsburg's 29 aces broke the record of 23 set by Poolesville in 2005. Danielle Beaver had six, Katie Sprecher had five, Danielle Hudson and Paige Decker each had two and Kaylee Gardenhour and Sarah Shives each had one.

"We've had consistent serving all year long, and we were on tonight," Leopards coach Rachel Brashear said. "I always tell them to put something on it, but to make it a playable ball. We came in confident, and (serving) is like foul shooting in a way."

Smithsburg (18-0) also set a record for hitting efficiency in a match, scoring on 18 of 26 attacks for a .577 percentage.

Sara Rishell had 12 kills on 13 attempts for a .923 percentage, but didn't qualify for the individual record as she had fewer than 15 attempts. Colleen Black had four kills on seven attempts, and Beaver added two kills on five attempts.

"We've had matches against weaker teams where we haven't played our best," Rishell said. "We really focused on this match."

The Leopards were able to clear the bench and give everyone playing time while putting away Surrattsville (14-3).

"We wouldn't be where we are now without everybody pushing hard," Belella said. "They practice hard and push us."

"It was nice to get them in and have them be part of the state semifinal match," Brashear said. "They've been a big part of this team and they deserve to play."

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