Catonsville saves its best for regionals Comets advance by sweeping Wright

November 14, 1992|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

The Catonsville Comets came into yesterday's Class 3A, Region II title match admittedly nervous about facing unbeaten C. Milton Wright.

They came out, however, with the confidence of champions.

The fifth-ranked and host Comets played what coach Debbie Clem called "their best match of the year," and beat the ninth-ranked Mustangs, 15-5, 15-9, 15-7.

For Clem, whose team struggled to beat Bel Air earlier this week in the semifinals, Catonsville's strong performance was reason to celebrate.

"I'm elated," said Clem. "This was the best and the smartest we've played all year as a team. We're really peaking at the right time."

The Comets (13-1) advance to the Class 3A state semifinals Wednesday at Charles Community College, where they'll be making their 12th appearance in the past 14 years. Last year, Catonsville's title hopes were --ed by Seneca Valley.

If yesterday's performance was any indication, however, Clem may need to make space in Catonsville's trophy case. The Comets dominated with strong serving, uncompromising defense and the killer instincts of Karla Uttenreither and Elizabeth Johnson.

After taking a 6-5 lead in the first game, they scored the next nine points to win, 15-5. Uttenreither was on the serving end of the Comets' first six points of the streak.

"We were really apprehensive at first because they came in with a 13-0 record, and we heard they'd improved a lot," said Uttenreither, who entered the match with a serving rate approaching 97 percent. "We just had a really great day passing and they had a really hard time returning our offense."

After battling to win a back-and-forth second game, 15-9, Catonsville found itself trailing 6-1 in the third game before rallying for 14 of the next 15 points and the win.

"It was really important for us to win the third game," said Johnson. "[Against Bel Air] we lost our intensity, probably because we got overconfident. We really were able to pull together."

Johnson contributed eight kills, second to Uttenreither's game-high 13. Uttenreither was also 12-for-12 serving, as her long, hard serves sent C. Milton Wright scrambling to return balls from deep in its territory.

Despite only scoring three aces, Clem said her team's consistently strong serving was a key to the win.

"They couldn't really receive our serve," said Clem. "That gave them a lot of trouble trying to set to their big hitters."

The Mustangs' two top finishers, Kellie Rueschling and Carin Gorrell, combined for just five kills and three points. Both struggled to reach misguided sets, and hit several balls into the net and out of bounds.

"That's the first time we've done that all year," said C. Milton Wright coach Bonnie Fry. "I think we were nervous. We came here last year and lost, and the kids remembered. You could see it in their faces."

Catonsville's crisp passing also gave the Mustangs (14-1) fits on defense. Setter Gabrielle Clark set up closer than normal to Uttenreither, allowing the All-Metro hitter to angle her shots past double coverage.

Clark successfully converted 49 of 54 setting opportunities.

"This is the best we've passed all year," said Johnson.

Added Clem: "I just hope it's a sign of things to come."

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