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Prep Volleyball: Leopards still have Sentinels' number in 1A West final

November 09, 2012|By JACK HILL III | jack.hill@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG — Whenever Fort Hill’s volleyball team travels to Smithsburg for a Maryland Class 1A West volleyball final, history sure does seem to repeat itself.

For the fourth straight year, the Sentinels entered the Leopards’ gym hoping to punch a ticket to the state semifinals on Friday. And for the fourth straight year, Smithsburg emphatically made sure it didn’t happen with a sweep.

Only the actual scores seem to change — this time, it was 25-8, 25-12, 25-20.

Of course, the Leopards (15-3) have other history in mind. They will enter next week’s state tournament seeking their ninth state championship and fourth consecutive — a feat that only Williamsport (2002-05) has done among Washington County schools.

Smithsburg will now face the 1A North champion — either Sparrows Point (14-2) or Pikesville (8-8) — on Monday night at a time to be determined at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum in College Park.

“We came out tonight and took control early,” Leopards coach Rachel Brashear said. “When we won those first two games, that put us in the driver’s seat a little bit going into the third game. When you have a young team like mine, it gives you a little bit of breathing room after you get those first two games under your belt.”

Junior outside hitter Amanda Snowden starred with 19 kills and four aces for Smithsburg.

“We just basically came out and played our Leopard volleyball,” Snowden said. “It was a real exciting match. When I got a set, I put the ball down. When I made a mistake, I just came right back. I was focused on serving at certain spots where my coaches tell me to serve. I think I am getting a lot better with my spot serving.”

Snowden pointed to a 12-day period between the Leopards’ final regular-season match and their first playoff match as a pivotal point.

“Before playoffs, we had two weeks off from matches,” Snowden said. “We only had practice during those two weeks. We really worked hard in practice. We just thought of each practice as our last practice.”

Senior middle hitter Haley Caudell added nine kills and two blocks, while sophomore setter Payton Belella dished out 36 assists for the Leopards.

“We have been working really hard in practice to be ready in this type of situation,” Caudell said. “Our back row was picking up everything tonight to be able to get the ball to Payton. Our team knew that it was our last time playing together in this gym, so we just wanted to go out with a bang. We didn’t know a lot about Fort Hill coming into this match, so we knew that we had to play our best and be ready for anything.”

Freshman Hollee Winders had seven kills and sophomore libero Marissa Dangler added 10 digs for Smithsburg.

Snowden reeled off seven straight service points as Smithsburg opened a 15-4 advantage in Set 1. Belella added a six-point service run to make it 23-7, an Caudell closed the set with a block.

Jess Sensenbaugh’s seven-set service run in Set 2 gave Smithsburg an 18-9 lead. Snowden finished off the set with four straight service points, with Winders’ kill ending things.

Smithsburg pushed to a 17-10 lead in Set 3 before Fort Hill (13-4) showed some life and reduced the deficit to 21-19. But the Sentinels did not get any closer. Junior Jenny Fritts served up an ace on match point to clinch the region title for the Leopards.

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