Sparked by tenacious defense and the superb play of Abby Burk, Towson made its first trip to the playoffs in five years count with a 15-9, 15-8, 13-15, 17-15 victory over visiting Girls volleyball
Hammond in the Class 2A, Region III semifinals last night.
The victory sends the second-seeded Generals (11-3) to the regional title match Saturday against fourth-seeded, defending state champion Mount Hebron. Game time is set tentatively for 7 p.m.
"That's the best match we've played this year," said Towson coach Bev Snyder. "They did everything I wanted. Person-to-person, they [Hammond] were probably the better team. But we played better tonight."
No one played better than Burk, the Generals' 5-foot-10 leader who performed admirably in every role. She set her teammates well, she pounded 15 kills at the Golden Bears, produced two point blocks and confounded Hammond with a vicious serve. Burk had eight aces.
"It's been so long since we've been to the regionals, and now we're going to the finals," Burk said. "I know we can do this. I didn't want it to slip away."
While Towson limited its mistakes, Hammond (10-6) watched its season end under a mountain of miscues.
The Bears, who appeared rattled in Towson's loud gym, practically gave away the opening game, thanks to eight service errors.
Then, in the second game, the lead changed hands five times before Towson went on a 9-1 run to turn a 7-6 Hammond lead into a 15-8 Towson victory.
Burk served three aces during the run.
"They played smart," said coach Henry Dahlen, who announced his resignation after 12 years at Hammond. "They hardly made any mistakes. That's how we played last year."
"We froze up. Nobody wanted to make the mistake, and they all did."
Hammond didn't go down without a fight. The Bears took an 11-4 lead in game three, watched Towson pull to within 11-8, then forged a 14-8 advantage. After that, Hammond blew six game points before winning 15-13.
Towson then came out flat in game four. Hammond took a 10-3 lead, thanks largely to two aces by Josie Kausal (eight kills, three aces) and two kills by Sonia Keiner (12 kills, seven assists).
But the Bears' offense faltered, as Towson reeled off six straight points to make it 10-9. From there, the lead changed hands three times. After ties of 14 and 15, the Bears failed on two consecutive returns.