HAMPSTEAD — Early in the second game of the Class 2A Region I volleyball semifinals at North Carroll High last night, the Panthers appeared in control.
They led third-seeded Allegany, 8-1, after winning the first set and were setting and hitting the ball well. Allegany even had players serving underhanded.
Then, everything fell apart for the Panthers.
Their serving went bad.
They had trouble setting the ball.
Even when they wouldget a good set, the hitters had trouble keeping the ball in bounds.
Allegany even scored on some of its underhanded serves.
When all was said and done, the Campers from Allegany were a happy bunch, winning the match, 11-15, 15-12, 15-12, 15-5, to advance to the regional finals Thursday.
Allegany coach Randi Countryman called a timeout in that fateful second game with her team behind, 8-1, but it was North Carroll's Linda Richards who had some advice for her team.
"Itold them we had a 7-1 lead in the first game and we let them back in it," she said. "I told them not to do it again."
Her team didn'theed the warning.
Thanks in part to 10 service aces, the Campers won an ugly game (they also had six service errors), but it was beautiful for a team that hadn't made the regional playoffs for 10 years.
"When it was 8-1 (in the second game), they had enough confidence in themselves to come back," said Countryman, who roomed in college with Richards.
But Allegany (10-6) chipped away at the lead, despite its own service and ball-handling problems, and tied the match at 10 on a dink by Angie Frankford.
It was close the rest of the way, but Charity Taylor served the 13th and 14th points for Allegany, thenKara Deneen blocked a North Carroll return for the final points.
In the third game, it was Allegany that bolted to the early lead, going up, 9-3, when Frankford scored with a dink.
But North Carroll'sJen Cooper hit a hot streak and accounted for three of her team's next five points, as the Panthers pulled to within 9-8.
Allegany forged a 14-10 lead, but the second-seeded Panthers cut it to 14-12 before a bad serve ended the rally.
The Campers bolted to a 12-2 lead in the fourth game and coasted to the win.
Aside from the bad serves, North Carroll (8-8) was plagued by inconsistent setting all night. Most often, the serves were too far back from the net to allow the team's big hitters -- Cooper, Jen Rothlingshofer, Sherri Martin and Joy Huber -- to be effective.
"We do have some girls who can hit," Richards said. "We just couldn't get (the ball) there."
The Panthers roared to a big lead in the first game, too.
But after forging a 7-1 lead, the Campers rallied to pull to 7-5.
Martin served fourstraight points to give North Carroll some breathing room, then Shelly Woodburn ended the opener with four of her own. The game-winner came when Cooper hit a dink to the left side of the court, where two Campers were on the ground after returning the previous hit.