Volleyball fans who came to Mount Hebron High School on Friday night to watch the Vikings and visiting Centennial play for the county championship weren't nearly as surprised by the outcome -- a five-game Hebron victory -- as they were by the seating arrangements in Hebron's gym.
Several hundred spectators arrived to find the bleachers closed with "Condemned, Do Not Open" signs taped over them. Fans had to sit on individual chairs placed in rows along each sideline.
The reason for the inconvenience? Two days earlier, Hebron was surprised by an inspection that revealed enough defects in the bleachers to warrant their closing.
The timing of the inspection, done annually by a contractor hired by the school system's maintenance department, didn't sit well with Hebron volleyball coach Jeannine McCrumb.
"I know it's for a good reason, but why not inspect them during the summer? Why does it have to be during my season?" said McCrumb, who apologized to fans for the seating problem before player introductions Friday night.
What's more, fans will have to sit at floor level for tonight's 6:30 Class 2A Region II semifinal match against fourth-seeded Patapsco. The Vikings are the top-seeded hosts.
Hebron athletic director Mark Cates, who was "totally and absolutely surprised" by the inspection, said he had proposed that Hebron share Centennial's gym with the Eagles, who are playing host to a Class 3A Region I semifinal against Liberty tonight. McCrumb and her players declined.
"Jeannine said she felt more comfortable in our gym and the kids said they felt more comfortable there, and that's what matters," Cates said.
"Originally, they said they hoped to get the bleachers fixed within a month, but I've made motions to have it done right now," Cates added.
Steve Duckworth, the county's supervisor of athletics, said the inspection didn't uncover major problems in the bleachers' structure.
"I was told that minor parts were worn underneath. They may be minor parts, but it was enough so that people shouldn't be on them. That's major to us," said Duckworth, who added the bleachers should be working by the time Hebron plays host to its first home basketball game next month.
Duckworth added he addressed the timing of the inspection with the maintenance department, making it clear that in future years bleachers must be examined during the late spring or summer, so repairs don't interfere with indoor sports.
Hebron isn't the only top-seeded volleyball team headed for the playoffs. Atholton, which came on strong to finish third in the county with a 10-5 record, will host fourth-seeded Glenelg tonight at 6 in the Class 2A Region I semifinals. If the Raiders win as expected, they'll host the regional final Friday night.
One other Atholton tidbit: The Raiders football team will play Hammond in the seventh annual South Columbia Bowl on Saturday at 1:30. Hammond is still looking for its first win in the series.