The MVAL Antietam title could very well be decided on Monday when North Hagerstown (3-1, 2-0) hosts Williamsport (4-0, 3-0) in a matchup of the league’s only two unbeaten teams.
The Wildcats haven’t dropped a game all season in sweeping its four opponents. Williamsport has been led by middle hitter Stacey Christy (3.67 kills, 2.00 blocks per game) — who leads Washington County Public Schools players in kill percentage (.427) — and outside hitter Sam Kelly, who gets it done at the net (2.33 kills) and in the back row (3.75 digs). Ariah Giles (1.42 blocks) gives Williamsport another formidable defensive weapon up front, while Brooklyn Welch (5.00 digs) has achored the back row.
The Hubs counter with their own potent 1-2 attack of Autumn Fisher (3.00 kills, 0.92 blocks) and Peyton Wallech (2.62 kills, 1.00 blocks) and arguably the best setter in the county in Brynne Kirsch (8.46 assists). Fisher (3.15 digs) and Kirsch (2.85 digs) also have been North’s top defensive players.
At 3-3, North Hagerstown’s season so far has been a tale of two counties.
The Hubs’ victories all came in the Washington County Public Schools Tournament, which they won for the eighth time in the last 11 years with a 1-0 victory over Williamsport in the final last Saturday. They finished 3-0 for the tourney, outscoring their opponents 6-0.
However, North is 0-3 against Frederick County teams, having been outscored a combined 14-0 by Thomas Johnson, Middletown and Tuscarora.
“Everyone in our county is pretty even, but when we go down the road, we get hurt,” North coach Rick Aleshire said. “Our whole county, we’re just not at that level where we can go down there and compete. But we’ve got to get there. It’s our job now to get them to that level.”
He said facing such competition during the season is an invaluable experience. The Hubs could potentially play Thomas Johnson and/or Tuscarora again in the Class 3A West playoffs.
“We need to play them to see where we need to be,” Aleshire said. “We’ll get there. At the end of the season, we’ll go down there and compete. But right now, we just can’t.”
But first things first.
“Our first goal was to win the county,” Aleshire said. “The next goal is to win the conference.”
North Hagerstown — which earned its third straight Washington County Public Schools Tournament title Saturday with a penalty shootout victory over Williamsport — is off to a 6-0 start.
The Hubs sure know how to win close games. Two of those wins (South Hagerstown and Williamsport) came on penalties in the county tournament, and the other four have been by one goal — and North pulled two of those out in double overtime (Thomas Johnson and Clear Spring).
North has been led offensively by Osman Ramizov (four goals, two assists) and Ryan Byard (four goals, one assist). Ramizov has proven to be dangerous on crosses — both with his head and on volleys — and the Hubs have done well sending early crosses into the 18-yard box to catch defenses napping.
In addition, Max Ober has been superb between the posts. He made a handful of fine stops in the county final — both in regulation and the shootout — and has allowed just four goals in the six games.
* Even though the Wildcats (5-1) lost the county final to North (after playing the Hubs to a scoreless draw in regulation), they have arguably been more dominant, scoring 16 goals and allowing just two. That says something for keeper Alex Aleshire, a two-time Herald-Mail All-County First Team honoree who has been absolutely stellar to take the pressure off an inexperienced back line.
Williamsport has its own dynamic duo causing havoc up front, with Cody Gardenhour (six goals, three assists) and Tiago DeSouza (five goals, two assists) combining for 12 of the Wildcats’ 16 goals.
The leader in the clubhouse among prep golfers is Smithsburg’s Kyle Huntzberry.
A junior in his third year of varsity play, Huntzberry has fashioned an average of 37.8 per nine holes this year and qualified earlier this week for a third appearance in the Maryland State Championship at the Maryland 1A/2A District 1 Championship.
Washington’s Ryan Mumaw is close behind with a 38.5 average. Huntzberry and Mumaw are the only two players in the Tri-State area with sub-40 averages for nine holes.
Chambersburg’s Max Bell and Carter Rajtik — each having had success in the Tri-State Junior Golf Association last summer — are not far off the path, both averaging 40.1.
County tourney up next
With the district tournaments out of the way, the focus now shifts to the Washington County Public Schools Tournament, slated for Thursday at Black Rock Golf Course with a shotgun start scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
North Hagerstown is the defending champion, having displaced Smithsburg last year from its lofty run of three straight titles.
Huntzberry and North junior Aaron Staley went toe-to-toe last year, with Huntzberry posting a 77 — one stroke better than Staley.
Chambersburg will head into the Mid-Penn Conference postseason tournament with a perfect 30-0 regular-season mark.
Bell and Rajtik will compete in the MPC, as will teammates Nick Stonesifer and Austin Green.
Waynesboro’s Ben Weber and Tyler Bricker, James Buchanan’s Grant Strawoet and Isaac Sipes, and Greencastle-Antrim freshman Hunter Heuer have earned spots in the tournament.
The Mid-Penn tournament is slated for Sept. 27 at the Links at Gettysburg.
* West Virginia schools begin postseason play next week.
The Class AAA Region II meet will be held on Monday at Locust Hill Golf Club in Charles Town — with Washington, Hedgesville, Musselman, Jefferson and Martinsburg competing — while Berkeley Springs will play in the Class AA Region II tournament Monday at Stonewall Resort.
While the Maryland state championships are still seven weeks away, several Washington County schools will test their mettle on the infamously challenging state-meet course Saturday at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford High School.
Clear Spring, Smithsburg and Williamsport will compete in the small-schools division, as will Saint James, which, as a private school, won’t have to return to Hereford this fall. South Hagerstown will compete in the medium-schools division.
— Assistant sports editor Andrew Mason and staff writers Dan Kauffman and Tim Koelble contributed to this week’s prep notebook.