NORTH EAST -- South River's volleyball program had to wait eight years to get back into the state tournament, and the Seahawks didn't want it to be a short stay.
North Hagerstown didn't give them much choice.
The No. 1 seed Seahawks were overpowered in the first two games and bowed to fourth seed North Hagerstown, 15-6, 15-3, 8-15, 15-7, in the Class 2A state semifinals at Rising Sun High.
Senior Pam Patterson had 16 kills for South River (14-4), which opened the first and third games with an ace by Mary Beth Duvall (seven kills).
North Hagerstown of Washington County (14-3) will meet No. 3 seed Glenelg in the final at noon Saturday at Catonsville Community College. The Gladiators downed Loch Raven, 17-15, 15-5, 9-15, 8-15, 15-5, in the other semifinal last night.
South River was badly outplayed in the first two games. North Hagerstown was stronger at the net, communicated better and served with precision. At times, the Seahawks were caught flat-footed, and by midway through the second game, they looked like a beaten team.
"A little bit of everything went wrong," said coach Melissa Diehlmann, who told her players afterward that she wouldn't be returning next season. "We always have gotten started late. They just didn't have the fire they needed."
"We're real young and this was a big step for us," said Patterson.
"As soon as we loosened up, we started communicating and things got rolling. Then, we tensed up again."
North Hagerstown scored the first 11 points of the second game, and only three errors kept the Hubs from posting the shutout. But the third game would be different.
Suddenly, it was the Hubs who were prone to mistakes, and SouthRiver rallied from deficits of 4-1 and 8-6.
In the fourth game, the Seahawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and later went ahead, 6-5. But balanced hitting by North Hagerstown and another lapse by South River proved the difference.
A kill by Patterson gave the Seahawks their final lead. A kill by Sabrina Harrison tied it, 6-6, and a kill by Julie Frazee put North Hagerstown in front for good.
The Hubs registered 30 kills, led by Harrison with 12.
"We were seeded fourth, but that's the way the system works. It wasn't a disadvantage for us," said coach Karen McKee. "It was a credit to [South River] that they turned it up a notch in the third game. We had a hard time."
Part of North Hagerstown's success in the first game stemmed from its ability to block Patterson at the net. The Hubs also had just one service error.
North Hagerstown's Lindsey McNaney opened the second game with an ace, and it was all downhill for South River from there.
The Hubs registered five aces, including one from Harrison that ended the game. It also received kills from six different players.
The Seahawks had swept Forest Park and Northeast in the two regional matches, but they were in jeopardy of being swept last night until North Hagerstown began to falter in the third game and South River's Kim and Stacey Thomas began finding some open spaces on the other side of the net.
A kill from Kim Thomas cut North Hagerstown's lead to 8-7. Behind the Thomases and Duvall, South River proceeded to close out the game, giving the Seahawks new life.
But it was fleeting.