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Prep Volleyball: Smithsburg advances to state final with another sweep

November 12, 2012|By DANIEL KAUFFMAN | kauffman@herald-mail.com
  • Members of the Smithsburg volleyball team celebrate their Maryland Class 1A state semifinal sweep of Sparrows Point at the University of Maryland at College Park on Monday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Monday night’s Maryland Class 1A state volleyball semifinals were just business as usual for the Smithsburg Leopards.

By now, the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum should feel like a second home for the three-time defending state champions — and that worked to Smithsburg’s advantage against a Sparrows Point team making its first appearance at the state tournament since 1999.

Being better didn’t hurt, either.

The Leopards won their 19th straight playoff match — and their 17th straight in a sweep — with a 25-10, 25-12, 25-10 romp past the Pointers, who played hard defensively but simply didn’t have the attacking talent needed to make a serious challenge.

On Friday night at 6, Smithsburg will face Perryville (13-6) in the state final for the second straight year. The Panthers swept Dunbar 25-21, 25-7, 25-22 in Monday’s other semifinal.

The Leopards (16-3) can join Williamsport as the only teams in Washington County volleyball history to win four straight state titles — the Wildcats earned Class 1A championships each year from 2002 to 2005. Smithsburg is seeking its ninth state volleyball title overall, which would tie Northern Calvert for third-most in state history.

“We don’t talk about (the history) a lot, we just talk about the game in front of us,” said Smithsburg coach Rachel Brashear. “We’ll celebrate after we do it, but right now, we’ve just got to attack the next opponent.”

Amanda Snowden had 16 kills to power the Leopards’ attack, while Haley Caudell added six kills and Payton Belella dished out 27 assists.

Sparrows Point (15-3), the 1A North champion, showed its defensive chops early by keeping a couple hard Snowden kill attempts in play and played solid in the back all match. But the Pointers never were able to sustain an offensive attack and made 25 errors in the first two sets.

“We were nervous from the very beginning,” Sparrows Point coach Irene Kirkpatrick said. “We tend to play a little more defensive than offensive and that hurt us tonight. Defensively, we can hang tough.”

With a blowout obvious from early in Set 1 — when the Leopards jumped out to a 6-0 lead and used an 8-0 run to make it 17-5 — Brashear gave plenty of opportunities to players who don’t regularly see much action, and several had their turn in the spotlight.

Jenny Fritts — who usually makes her mark on defense, and had six digs Monday — was the top serving star with seven aces. She also had two kills late in Set 3.

“I was nervous a little bit, but I knew when it came down to it ... I had to do it for the team,” Fritts said.

Freshman Hollee Winders had four kills — two in each of the last two sets — and freshman Alaina Black added two kills in Set 3.

One of the loudest cheers of the match was for seldom-used sophomore Sara Hetherington, who put away a kill late in the third set.

“It’s always nice when everybody can contribute, and we had a lot of contributions tonight,” Brashear said.

Sparrows Point had a 7-6 lead early in Set 2 before Smithsburg used a 5-0 run to take control and a 9-1 run to close out the set. The Leopards then raced out to a 16-3 lead in Set 3 thanks to an 11-0 run.

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