In its 4A state championship match against Northern, Severna Park's volleyball team brought out the beast in Coach Tim Dunbar -- though only for an instant.
And Dunbar, the Anne Arundel County Sun's 1991Volleyball Coach of the Year, subsequently brought out the best in his Falcons (19-0).
His Falcons had "gotten killed" by the Patriots in the first game, 15-6, and were trailing in the second, thanks to Northern's 5-foot-11 Kristin Kruse (234 career kills).
"When I called the time out, we were down, 9-6, and I was just trying to calm them down," the fifth-year coach recalled. "I told them that if we attacked them, they couldn't beat us. I wanted them triple-blocking Kruse.
"But one of the girls tried to cut me off when I was trying to explain the strategy -- and I just snapped at them. I saw their eyes get pretty big and I think they were surprised because they know my intent is never to intimidate them. I was just trying to get their attention and to let them know that this was serious business."
Dunbar did get the attention of the Falcons, who reeled off nine of the next 10 points to winthe second game, 15-10, and swept the last two games, 15-7, 15-5, towin Severna Park's third state title.
Dunbar's spontaneity has served him well this season, like when he chose to keep 5-9 senior hitter April Kaiser, a transfer from Missouri, who walked into his socialstudies class the day before school began. Within hours of watching her play, Dunbar projected her to be the county's best player.
He was right.
Kaiser, the Anne Arundel County Sun's Volleyball Playerof the Year, led the county with 163 kills. And at a team-leading 94.1 percent clip, she missed just 12 serves all year, with 30 aces.
Dunbar had five returning starters before Kaiser arrived, so integrating a newcomer into an already close-knit group was a delicate operation.
"Coach made it easier by not singling anybody out. He did a good job of making us a team," said Kaiser, who missed three games with an injury to her right ankle.
"I think the highlight was being accepted. And with the spotlight being shared by everybody, we were able to start practicing together right away and get focused. After that, everything just fell into place."
Other than Kaiser and 5-7 senior outside hitter Cassandra Melton, an All-County pick, the rest ofthe Falcons were underclassmen from the squad that was left badly shaken, mentally, after losing to Glen Burnie a year ago. The Falcons, who finished 12-3 last year, were 11-0 when the Gophers whipped them in three games, ending an 87-match winning streak dating from 1984.
"I was concerned about their confidence at first, but once we started scrimmaging, it was apparent that they had grown up," said Dunbar,whose overall record is 72-3 in match play and 91-8 including round-robin tournaments.
"Bowie returned a strong team and finished 13-3this year, but we blew them away in the first match."
Only Laurel, in the second match of the year, took the Falcons to five games -- their other matches were four games or fewer.
"After we beat Broadneck, 3-0, in the fourth (match) of the season, I could see in their eyes that they were on a mission."
And Dunbar wanted to take the metro area's top-ranked Falcons where no previous Severna Park team had gone before -- to an unprecedented 19-0 record.
Dunbar's new offensive and defensive schemes this year took some getting used to.
"Whatever he says, goes. But we know he'll be right," said junior setter Jamie Pirotte, who has played for Dunbar since her freshman year."He's very good at letting us know our capabilities and warns us well in advance about other teams."
"What he did at states was a shock, because he's usually calm," said junior Kate Marks, a 5-10 outsidehitter who is also a third-year varsity player. "But when he does break that character, he's knows what he's talking about."
And the more Dunbar challenged his youthful squad, the more it rose to the occasion. It produced a combined 94.6 percent serving average in the semifinals against Laurel and in the championship match.
Marks turnedin a sparkling defensive effort against the Patriots and junior Catherine Kirk, another All-County selection, and Melton went 22-for-22 and 13-of-14, respectively, serving in that game.
Kaiser against Kruse was another attraction.
"I had heard so much about Kruse that I saw it as my chance to prove that I could play with the best in thestate," said Kaiser, who had eight kills in the match.
"Volleyball-wise, I'm glad I came here. I had never been on a state championship team, so I guess it was just a stroke of luck or just fate."
Fate, however, had been unkind to Dunbar -- or so he thought.
Dunbar had been with state runner-up teams as an assistant to Bee Manley in 1985 and 1986 and as a head coach in 1987 and 1989. But he had to watch last year as Glen Burnie (18-0) won its first county and state titles in the school's history under Coach Juanita Milani, who was chosen Coach of the Year.