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North hopes fifth time is charm for state title

November 18, 2011|By DAN KAUFFMAN | kauffman@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — State volleyball finals have not been kind to North Hagerstown.

The Hubs have played for a state championship four times — in 1993, 1997, 1998 and 2007 — only to walk off the court dejected after a loss each time.

North’s fifth opportunity arrives this evening, when the Hubs (16-2) face River Hill (16-1) at 7:30 for the Class 3A title at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum in College Park.

“They’re so excited and I think they’re ready,” North coach Megan Crawford said Friday. “Mentally, we’re there. We’re just going to have to get the jitters out early and play our game, but they’re really excited about tomorrow.”

The Hawks also have not won a state title, losing championship matches in 1999 and 2009. But they’re sure to give North a stiff test.

Both teams were impressive in Thursday’s semifinals. River Hill defeated previously unbeaten La Plata 22-25, 30-28, 25-12, 21-25, 15-2, while the Hubs’ superior attack led the way in a 25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 25-16 victory over defending 3A champion Towson.

North and River Hill have recent history. In the 2007 Class 2A state semifinals, the Hubs edged the Hawks 24-26, 25-21, 26-24, 25-22 in a battle of two elite middle hitters — North’s Kate Zimmer and River Hill’s Maddi Lee. Zimmer had 28 kills and Lee had 33 — setting a tournament single-match record that still stands.

“We’d like the same result,” Crawford said. “The team then and the team now, it’s not too different. We were a more defensive team than anything then, and we’re a little more even now and have a few more weapons. River Hill has a great program and we know that just by watching them (Thursday). It’s going to be a good match and I hope we come out on top.”

The Hubs finished with 54 kills against Towson, with Autumn Fisher (22 kills), Peyton Wallech (16 kills) and Iman Scott (13 kills) all having big games. Brynne Kirsch finished with 43 assists, spreading the ball beautifully.

North will need that kind of spread attack against River Hill’s big blocking tandem of Amber Wiswell (13 kills and eight blocks against La Plata) and Cassidy Davis (seven kills, five blocks).

“Both our middles (Fisher and Wallech) will have to be smart tomorrow. If they’re jammed (at the net), they won’t be able to hit through the block,” Crawford said. “Moving (Wiswell and Davis) around is going to be a key, too. ... Brynne was able to mix it up (Thursday) and we’re going to have to do that again tomorrow night. We’re going to have to be smart, get the jitters out early and play how we have been playing.”

River Hill can attack from all angles. In addition to Wiswell and Davis inside, Kristen Lee had 11 kills outside.

“The Lee girl killed La Plata,” Crawford said. “She’s a smart hitter and we’re going to have to get a big block up on her.”

Both teams possess strong defenses. Four players had at least nine digs for River Hill against La Plata — led by Caitlin Davis with 17. Kirsch led North with 13 digs against Towson, and Fisher, Erika Lawrence and Mollie Johnson each added 12 digs.

For five seniors — Fisher, Kirsch, Scott, Lawrence and Johnson — tonight will be the final match of their high school careers. The question is, will they go out as state champions?

“They get along on the floor really, really well and they’re all friends on and off the court,” Crawford said. “They have grown from the beginning of the season. We knew coming in where we could be. ... They’ve come together so well and they support each other. We’re proud of them. We know they can do it tomorrow as long as they have the confidence, which I believe they do.”

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