Talk about two teams heading in opposite directions. It's a wonder these two still were in the same gymnasium.
Or in the same ZIP code, for that matter.
On one side was the Severna Park volleyball squad, with its 5-0 record and No. 1 ranking in the Baltimore metro area. And on the opposite end -- in more ways than one -- was a Chesapeake team searching for that elusive first win.
The Falcons' gym was the wrong place tolook.
The hosts struggled some after the first game, but held their composure and took a 15-2, 16-14, 16-14 victory yesterday.
"We're playing smarter than I thought we'd be playing after six matches,"said Falcons coach Tim Dunbar, whose team was most tested Sept. 19, when it pulled out a 3-2 win against Laurel. Broadneck (a 3-1 loser Sept. 24) is the lone county foe to win a game against Severna Park.
"I don't think we're peaking," Dunbar said. "I think we've got a long way to go, but I like the way we're playing."
Atholton coach Jon Peterson was even more impressed after a pre-season scrimmage, calling Severna Park "the best team in the state."
And the Falcons looked the part in yesterday's opening game, when they raced out to a 12-0 lead behind the serving of juniors Jaime Pirotte and Catherine Kirk and senior Cassandra Melton.
Sophomore Jen Conner served two winners, including an ace, to give the Falcons a 14-1 lead, and Pirotte later closed the game with an ace.
The Cougars fought back to takeleads in the last two games, including 14-12 in the second and 9-2 in the third.
They nearly won the third game with Valerie McBee serving, 14-13, but the Falcons' Neville Uhles raced out of bounds to save a point, and her spike returned service to Severna Park.
SeniorGeorgia Kootsikas then served three straight aces to ensure the Cougars' sixth loss.
"We've always had a big rivalry with Severna Park," said Chesapeake second-year coach Kathy Kubic. "We knew we'd play our hardest against them."
Kirk said, "We got sloppy the second game. Our intensity level fell."
With a difficult opening schedule, Kubic knew her team would struggle early, despite the return of six seniors and three starters from a group that went 8-7 last year, including a 3-2 upset of Severna Park in the regular-season finale.
That loss had the Falcons "badly shaken," Dunbar said, heading into the region playoffs, where they lost to Broadneck in the opening round. They were seeking their fifth region title since 1985.
"We pretty much have the same team, but a different attitude. They're starting toget that killer instinct now," said Dunbar, who returns five starters from a year ago -- Melton, Pirotte, Kirk, Conner and junior Kate Marks.
The veteran coach didn't want his players dwelling on Chesapeake's poor record, which includes a 3-2 loss to defending 4A state champion Glen Burnie last month. The Cougars led, 2-1, before dropping the last two games, 15-10, 15-9.
"I told them they may be 0-5, butthat doesn't necessarily mean anything," Dunbar said. "Records don'tmean as much this early in the year. If we played them at the end and they were 1-12, then I'd say, 'OK, they're losing to everybody.' But they're not.
"We're not really afraid of anybody in the entire state, but we respect every single team. We didn't come in to take anybody lightly."
Certainly, no one is taking Severna Park lightly.