Matt Sedgely has seen the boys volleyball banner on the C. Milton Wright gym wall too many times. More than half a dozen dates from the last 10 years mark C. Milton Wright county championships.
Sedgely and his Bel Air High School teammates want the number "91" on a bannerin their own gym. Tuesday, they took a giant step toward the title with a 15-11, 15-14 victory over the Mustangs, who won the county title last year and shared it in 1988 and 89.
"We just came in hoping to win it quickly," said Sedgely, a 6-8 senior. "We're tired of looking at all those years up on that banner."
Bel Air coach Mike Ennis reminded Sedgely that the Bobcats have won a few titles of their own over the years including sharing the title with the Mustangs in 1989.
"This is always a big rivalry. It's the one the boys want to win the most," said Ennis, whose squad improved its record to 6-0.
The Bobcats stalled a little in the early going with the Mustangs taking 3-0 and 6-2 leads. But Bel Air bounced back when the Mustangs (5-2) started having trouble with their passing and setting.
Bel Air took a 9-6 lead, but the momentum turned toC. Milton Wright again when the Bobcats spiked a couple of balls waybeyond the endline. The Mustangs scored five unanswered points to lead 11-9.
Well-placed dinks, one by Matt Felton and two by Harry Watson, helped bring the Bobcats to game point. Sedgely responded by serving an ace to take game one.
"Our consistency was the key," added Ennis. "We had a good combination of spikes and dinks. And we played our game -- bumping and setting. Once you set it up that way, you're going to have a good game."
The second game was just as tight. Bel Air held leads of 3-0 and 7-2 before C. Milton Wright hammered back.
The Mustangs never got the lead in the second game, but a powerful performance by Peter Maranto nearly got them back in the match late.
Bel Air had taken a 13-3 lead when the Mustangs hit several balls out of the court. Then Maranto pounded a spike off a Bel Air block, sparking a rally.
Maranto had several other powerful hits, and Matt Freeland dropped in a dink to help bring the Mustangs back to 13-7. But, on the next point, one of the Mustangs slid under the net toforce a side out.
The Bobcats needed two quick service rotations to finish off the match. Dan Gallagher smashed a spike off an overpass to bring Bel Air to match point. Felton finished off the match witha powerful hit that fell in front of a diving opponent.
"I didn'texpect them to have so much power," said C. Milton Wright coach BillLang. "I thought we would match up fairly well, but some of the hitsjust didn't go our way."
Lang is still trying to build teamwork between inexperienced players. Sophomore setter Mat Grow is already one of the league's top setters and senior Billy Simmons has plenty of power.
"This is still a fairly young team. We lost five starters, kids that played together for four years. That kind of takes a toll,"said Lang.