SMITHSBURG — One might consider the Smithsburg volleyball team a rude host.
After enduring more than two hours on a school bus, Southern Garrett was sent packing after less than 60 minutes on the court, as the two-time defending Maryland Class 1A state champion Leopards claimed a 25-15, 25-8, 25-9 sweep in the 1A West semifinals Wednesday night.
The Leopards will host Fort Hill in the regional final Friday night at 6. Smithsburg has swept the Sentinels in each of the last two 1A West finals.
With three viable weapons at the net and a solid serve-receive game, Smithsburg (14-2) limited the Rams to a mere seven service points for the match.
“Danielle Harbaugh has been there for us all year long,” said Leopards coach Rachel Brashear. “But Amanda Snowden has really come on, and Haley Caudell has been a really strong presence at the net.”
That trio created problems for Southern (7-9) all night, blocking shots and disrupting the Rams’ attacks.
“I just wanted them to come out and play the best possible game they can play,” said Southern coach Stephanie Stephens. “(But) my girls came out a little timid. I know they can play better ball than they did tonight.”
Snowden served a pair of aces to start Game 1, and added three kills later to establish a 16-7 advantage. Caudell also contributed three kills in the first game.
Matters only got worse for Southern in the final two games.
Snowden and Harbaugh blitzed the Rams early in Game 2, combining for nine kills as Smithsburg raced to an 18-5 lead and never looked back.
Sarah Shives and Payton Belella registered six service points apiece — including three aces — in Game 3 to spark the Leopards to a 20-5 advantage. Again, the trio of Harbaugh, Caudell and Snowden dominated the net with a combined 10 kills and a block. Cara Ferguson also got into the act with a pair of kills.
Brashear — who was obviously delighted with the win — also was pleased with the improvement her team has demonstrated.
“We’re a very young team,” said Brashear. “We only have one starter back from last year’s state championship team. But this team has shown more growth than any other team I’ve had in the last nine years.”
Shives had 23 assists and six digs for Smithsburg, and Karah Knight added seven digs.