With his team having just lost a marathon second game in the regional volleyball finals, evening the match at 1-1, Severna Park coach TimDunbar gathered his players and issued a little reminder.
"I toldthem that's going to happen," he said. "No one said this was going to be easy."
Funny, but everything seemed a little easier for the top-seeded Falcons (17-0) from then on, as they took the next two games from second-seeded Broadneck (13-3) to clinch the 4A Region IV title Friday night.
"At this point in the season, you know teams won't roll over and play dead," Dunbar said after the 15-8, 13-15, 15-6, 15-10 triumph, Severna Park's fifth championship in seven years. "There are no crummy teams left."
Certainly not at the states, which begin Tuesdaynight at Watkins Mill in Montgomery County. Severna Park is assured the No. 1 seeding, and Dunbar said his team's semifinal match will get under way at 6 p.m.
The second game lasted 35 minutes and included five rotations and a season's worth of spectacular digs and recoveries.
Broadneck led the entire way until two aces from sophomore Jen Conner (six kills, four blocks) tied the score at 8-8. The Falconstook the lead, but a Jennifer Rapczynski ace eventually brought the teams even, 12-12.
Cassandra Melton's kill with Conner serving gave the Falcons a 13-12 lead. But the Bruins ran off the last three points on a Kennita Kirby Jones kill and a well-placed Nikki St. Clair serve that grazed off two lunging Severna Park players.
Rather thanbeing dragged down into a two-game hole, the Bruins seemingly had new life.
"That gave us a lift, but I think the pressure got to the kids," said Broadneck coach Glenn Brainer. "We only had two starters from last year out there, and I think it got to them."
The Bruins hung tough in the third game, taking a 5-4 lead on a Rapczynski block. But the Falcons ran off the next seven points -- four on the serving of senior April Kaiser and three more from Conner -- and never werethreatened.
"I wasn't worried. We always pull together," said Kaiser, whose powerful spikes from close and medium range enabled her tofinish with 16 kills.
"We don't ride the emotional roller coasterthat other teams do. None of us were thinking about the possibility of losing."
Melton (seven kills) saw advantages to the second-gameloss, saying the Falcons were "up a little too much" after the firstgame.
"We needed to come down a level," she said.
Junior Catherine Kirk (six kills, four blocks) said, "It actually psyched us up alot more. We became more intense."
Dunbar said Severna Park played as well defensively in the third and fourth games "as we've ever played."
"Kate Marks played phenomenally. She didn't let a ball get past her."
Many of the Falcons entered the match still thinking back to last November and a regional semifinal loss to the Bruins. Evena 3-1 victory two months ago, Broadneck's last defeat until Friday night, didn't appease Severna Park.
Kaiser wasn't on the Falcons' team last season, but said, "I hear about (the regional loss) all the time. That's all I ever hear about."
Now, Severna Park has something better to discuss.
"It's always good to beat a team that beat you last year," Kirk said. "We all wanted to win this match badly. It's been our goal since the season started."
"This means a lot," Melton said. "We're always reading in the paper how they beat us last year. We had to jump on them."