2/3 TC Three must be the lucky number for Perry Hall's volleyball team.
In the past two weeks, the No. 7 Gators (6-0 overall, 4-0 league) have upset two third-ranked teams, Broadneck and Catonsville. The victories surprised the losers, but not Gators coach Pam Wilt.
"The kids picked up right where they left off," said Wilt, whose squad lost a Class 4A regional title to Laurel in five games last fall. "We were good last year, and we went to the regional finals with juniors and sophomores. I thought we could come out strong. I was hoping we would."
The Gators couldn't have started out much stronger, shocking now-No. 5 Broadneck in a five-game match. The visiting Anne Arundel County squad took a two-games-to-one lead but Perry Hall rebounded for a 15-10, 5-15, 7-15, 15-8, 15-6 victory.
"Our passing kept us in that game," said Wilt. "And we kept the pace of the game going, too. I don't think they expected us to be as good as we were."
By last week, Catonsville had risen to the unsteady No. 3 spot in The Sun's top 10 rankings. The Gators headed to Catonsville Friday to play in the shadow of the Comets' seven state championship banners.
"I was very intimidated going to Catonsville," said Hee Lim. "We had lost to them for two years in a row, but we really wanted to finally win against them in our senior year."
The Gators played an excellent all-around game, beating the Comets, 16-14, 2-15, 15-11, 16-14.
"We played a smarter game," said Tracy Morgan. "We played tighter and kept the momentum on our side. Our teamwork overpowered them."
That teamwork has been the major factor in the Gators' early success. Their offense is built around four seniors, setter Patricia Ysern, middle hitter Morgan and outside hitters Lim and Lori Johnson.
That balanced offense overwhelmed a Comets squad that relied on one player, Karla Uttenreither, an All-Metro first-team pick.
The Gators have no All-Metro players, but Ysern, Morgan, Lim and Johnson turned in their best efforts of the season against Catonsville. Johnson led the Gators with 18 kills and Lim and Morgan each had eight. Ysern's serving was almost perfect, 19-for-20.
"Volleyball is very much a team sport, and they complement each other," Wilt said."They don't play as individuals. They play as a team and they support each other. If somebody makes a mistake or a bad hit, the other five are right there and talking to her."
The four seniors have played together at least two years, and last spring, they joined forces on a U.S. Volleyball Association junior team.
"We're stronger because we've had that extra year of playing together," said Johnson. "This year, we really think we can win. We'd really like to make it past where we were last year and make it to the next stage [state Class 4A final four]."
After the win at Catonsville, several Gators said they plan to go undefeated in the county this year. But Monday, they played their worst match of the season despite beating visiting Kenwood 15-2, 15-7, 15-5.
"We have a tendency to play at the same level as the other team," said Ysern. "When we play Broadneck, we play at their level, but when we play a weaker team like Kenwood we play down to their level. We have to be a little more consistent."
Tomorrow, the Gators face what may be the last hurdle in their bid for a spot in the county title match. They play host to Randallstown, the only other unbeaten team in Class 3A-4A.