Severna Park's top-ranked volleyball team beat host Meade, 15-9, 15-11, 15-10, yesterday, but the Falcons had to work for it.
The win,the unbeaten Falcons' 12th overall and ninth against a county foe, will go down statistically as a three-game sweep, but visiting coach Tim Dunbar qualified them as "three good games."
No lead was safe against the Vickie Hedgebeth-coached Mustangs (7-4, 7-2), who entered the game having won six of their last seven matches, including the last four.
The Falcons' routine usually goes like this: Two easy games before Dunbar subs in the reserves for what amounts to the third and final game.
But yesterday's first two games were tied four times each, with the Falcons facing three-point deficits each time.
Even after the Falcons built a 13-6 lead in the final game, the Mustangs wouldn't go quietly. Meade battled back to within 13-10 before Severna Park closed the door with a Jen Conner block and a game-ending kill by outside hitter Cassandra Melton.
"We knew they didn't give up and that they played to the level of their opponent," said Melton, a senior, who went 15-for-17 serving with threeaces and six kills.
She also served for six of the last eight points in the final game.
"Yesterday, I was kind of down in practice,so I knew I had to come out here and get on top of my serves. But wejust had to dig down and play above them. We just hung in there," she said.
So did the Mustangs.
The Falcons trailed, 6-3, in the first game, when Catherine Kirk (six kills, four blocks) served for six consecutive points as Severna Park regained control, 9-6.
Meade rallied to tie the game at nine when a Falcon touched the net, Vonnita Pinkett (three kills) got one of three blocks and Angie Yardley aced a serve.
Severna Park was back on top, however, with Melton serving for the final three points of the game, including two aces and Kirk's game-ending kill.
"I was kind of surprised at their defense. It was hard to put the ball down," said outside hitter Kate Marks, who had a game-high nine kills. She also served for five aces in the final game.
The story was similar in the second game.
The Falconsled, 5-2, when the Mustangs scored the next six points for an 8-5 lead. Severna Park tied the game at eight on Kirk's kill and went aheadon another by Melton.
It was 11-8 after Conner's unreturned serveand Kirk's block, but the Mustangs rebounded for the game's final tie, 11-11, after a net violation and a couple of carries by the Falcons.
The Falcons closed with a dink by Lori Sharpless, Jamie Pirotte's kill and two aces from Kirk.
"I felt that we played well, even though we lost in three games," said Hedgebeth. "We came back and were even leading. I think we showed people that we're for real, that we're not a joke."
But Dunbar already knew that.
"I expected no less. It's always the same with Meade. Even when they have a losing record Meade has never been an easy game for us," Dunbar said. "They'recoached well, they play good defense and the ball keeps coming back over and over again."
One reason for that was the net play of Meade's 5-foot-9 senior middle hitters Pinkett and Amy Neff (7-for-10 serving, two aces).
Pinkett, who leads the Mustangs with 59 kills and17 blocks, and Neff, who has 43 kills with 20 aces on 89 percent serving, were outgunned but never backed down from the monster hitting of the Falcons' 5-7 Melton, 5-11 Kirk and 5-10 Marks (seven kills, 14-for 14 serving with two aces).
"Hey, if you ask me, those two (Pinkett and Neff) are as good as anybody else in the county," Dunbar said. "Pinkett passes really well. We tried to serve away from her because she passes so well."
The Falcons adjusted well without their best player, outside hitter April Kaiser (sprained ankle).
Sharpless, a 5-8 junior, replaced Kaiser and was 3-for-3 serving while pickingup two kills.