Traveling outside of Harford County meant a rude awakening for the top four local volleyball teams in last week's regional championship semifinals.
Joppatowne, Fallston, C. Milton Wright and Bel Air wereall overwhelmed by powerful Baltimore County squads. None of the four managed to win a game in the best-of-three playoffs.
In Class 1A, Region III, Joppatowne fell to top-seeded Owings Mills, 15-9, 15-13, 15-8, on Wednesday.
Owings Mills (10-4) played a steady power game using big hitters Kari Stockslager and Cattie Koenig. The fourth-seeded Mariners (5-9) got most of their offense from their serving.
"Serve receive had not been one our our strong points, and they did have some nice strong servers," said Golden Eagles coach Lisa Meyer.
Twins Jill and Jean Kutay had good serving runs in the second and third game. Jean Kutay served six straight points, including three aces for a 6-1 lead early in the second game. That was the best streak the Mariners could put together in the match.
Although they served well in streaks, the Mariners missed 21 of 70 serves in the match.
"If we had served better, I think we could have beaten this team," said Mariners coach Ted Smith. "In the last game, we missed four serves in a row, and that killed us."
In the third game, the Mariners fell behind, 12-4, before Jill Kutay ran off four straight points on her serve. She had two aces in the run, but her fifth serve hit the net. Owings Mills came right back with three quick points to close out the match.
Despite their playoff loss, the Mariners have had a good season, said Smith, whose team won only one game last year. "We won five games this year, and we were competitive in about four others. Our objective was to play competitive volleyball and make the regionals, and we accomplished that.
The Mariners will have some rebuilding to do next year since they graduate four seniors from the starting lineup: Jean Kutay, Jill Kutay and setters Jen Bohonand Sharon Hanna. Juniors Jessica Thompson and Karina Korenczuk willreturn.
In a Tuesday night Class 1A semifinal, Fallston was eliminated by Sparrows Point, 15-6, 15-9, 15-7.
In Class 3A, Region II,C. Milton Wright faced the most impressive opponent in Baltimore County champ Catonsville (15-0). The Mustangs managed to stay close in acouple of games before falling 15-3, 15-10, 15-8, Tuesday night.
Just walking into the Comets' gym can be intimidating. The back wall is lined with state championship banners. The Comets have won seven state titles and 11 regional titles since 1979. They won five state championships in a row from 1979 to 1983.
But the Mustangs (10-5) didn't play scared. "We played the best match we've played all year," said coach Bonnie Fry. "Catonsville was just an excellent team. But we'd rather lose to a team like that than lose to a team that just bumps the ball over the net."
While the Mustangs didn't have the kind of power game the Comets did, they passed well and hit consistently. Kelli Rueschling led the Mustangs in hitting, while Karen Gorell and Serena Thomson were consistent in the back row and at the net. Setters Debbie Keiser and Stephanie Korpela also played well.
Catonsville had two outstanding hitters in Karla Uttenreither and Lauren Shryock. Although the Mustangs managed to save some of their hits, most were unreachable.
The Comets ran a complicated offense that included lightning-fast plays off of quick sets from setter Gabrielle Clark. On quick sets, the ball is hit just above the net barely out of the setter's hands.
"I've never seen that in high school. The quick set is almost impossible for us to defend against," said Fry.
In the other Class 3A regional Tuesday, Bel Air fell 15-12, 15-6, 15-9, to Dundalk (11-3). Like the Mustangs, the Bobcats couldn't contend with their opponents' power game.
The Bobcats (11-3) got solid performances from seniors Lisa Glenn and Christy Eilerman as well as Chris Fleckenstein and Amy Finlayson.