The Glen Burnie volleyball team usually doesn't take long to establish its rhythm.
Once the Gophers do establish a rhythm -- like they did in disposing of Old Mill in a three-game, 45-minute span in Wednesday's regional playoff opener -- they usually don't take long to finish an opponent.
The pattern had been similar all season to the tune of 45 straight games until the Gophers ran into Broadneck in Friday's Class 4A Region IV finals.
Glen Burnie (16-0) finally won the title, 17-19, 15-7, 15-7, 15-3, but not before losing its first game of the season and getting a scare from the Bruins (13-3).
"We weren't communicating well," said Glen Burnie team captain Melanie Scharf, who eventually helped bring the Gophers back with her superb serving (15-of-16, five aces) and power hitting (13 kills).
"Once we started getting kills from (Stacey Gilligan) and (Christy Hutson), we had something to get us going and that's what we needed."
Gilligan had 17 kills and went 12-of-13 from the service line. Linda Fannin (35-of-37 serving, eight aces), Melanie Albrecht (16-of-20 serving, three kills) and Michelle Ackerman (two kills) also contributed.
"Their team just played really well, and our heads weren't in the game," added Hutson, who finished with a match-high 18 kills and 14-of-16 serving with four aces. "We made some mistakes, but we eventually pulled through."
Yet in the first game, which took 40 minutes to complete, the Bruins overcame leads of 7-0 and 14-9 to win. What made the victory even more impressive is that the Bruins trailed, 4-0, when their 6-foot-2 star hitter Theresa Cornish left the game with a laceration on her chin after diving out of bounds for a ball.
With a bandage that covered the six stiches required to close the cut, Cornish later returned to watch her team lose the fourth and final game.
"All year long people were saying that Cornish was the team, but deep down the other players knew what they could do," said Coach Glenn Brainer, whose Bruins were coming off of their biggest win of the season over Severna Park (12-3) -- their first over the Falcons.
"I'm really proud of this team. It's a confidence-booster for next year."
The Bruins were somehow able to match the Gophers power-to-power. Other times, they used off-speed hitting or cross-court dinks to keep the Gophers off balance.
"I try to make the other team think I'm setting to one side, then they shift and I hit it over," said 5-foot-4 senior setter Crystal Adams, who was 9-for-12 from the service line. "When I hit it over, they weren't ready a lot of times. I wasn't always successful today."
Still, the Bruins kept the Gophers guessing.
When the Gophers' defense expected hard shots, it was frustrated by change-ups. When it stood straight up for the change-ups, the Gophers buried their shots in the floor.
Broadneck sophomore Julie Scott (5-8) had seven kills, junior Nikki St.
Claire (5-5) had four kills and two blocks, and Adams had three blocks to lead the Bruins in a surprisingly strong game at the net. Scott also went 17-for-20 from the service line with three aces.
All this despite not having another starting player who stands above 5-foot-8.
It took a while, but the Gophers finally got into sync.
"We were killing the ball in the first game, but they were still blocking us. I couldn't believe it. We didn't really show up until the third game," said Glen Burnie coach Juanita Murdock-Milani, whose Gophers won the county championship for the first time in her 13 years. "We practiced sloppy yesterday and just weren't functioning today. I thought Broadneck just out-hustled us, but this game is going to help us."