Atholton glides into 2A final

November 15, 1994|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Sun

There were a number of reasons why sixth-ranked Atholton swept past Stephen Decatur last night in the Class 2A state semifinals.

Nineteen, to be exact.

That's how many aces the Raiders served up against an overmatched Seahawks squad in their 15-10, 15-4, 15-13 win at Catonsville High School.

The Raiders (14-6) advance to Saturday's Class 2A state final at noon at Catonsville Community College, where they'll face No. 2 Loch Raven, a 15-9, 15-7, 15-11 winner over North Hagerstown in last night's other semifinal.

Atholton used its strong serving to keep the Seahawks off balance all night. Six different players served up aces for the Raiders, and the trio of Amanda Williams, Jessica Edwards and Jennifer Ponzette combined for 12, helping their team dispose of its opponents in 1 hour, 6 minutes.

"Serving was the whole key to the match," said Williams (game-high five aces and 10 kills), who said that the Seahawks' lack of height at the net helped her team to play more aggressively.

"We realized there was no blocking, so we got more aggressive with our hits."

The victory was just the latest surprise for Atholton in what so far has been a dream season. After going just 5-9 a year ago, the Raiders find themselves on the doorstep of their first state championship since the late 1980s.

First-year coach Sybil Kessinger said she began to believe in the team after five-game losses to Howard County powers Mount Hebron and Glenelg during the regular season.

"We had a chance to win both," said Kessinger, "and that's when I knew we'd be a force to be reckoned with."

She said that a tough county schedule is paying large dividends in the playoffs.

"As you see the other regions, you become more and more confident that Howard County has some of the best teams in the state," she said. "That's really helping us now."

It certainly helped them last night.

Decatur (13-7) never was in the match, and continuously hurt its own cause with sloppy passing and mishits.

Seahawks coach Susan Brinsfield said it was a matter of inexperience.

"We only have four seniors, and just three that really play," said Brinsfield. "I don't know whether or not we were outclassed, but we were definitely out-experienced."

The Seahawks led just twice in the match -- early in the opening game and late in Game 3 before Atholton scored the final four points to claim victory.

Fittingly, match point came on an ace by Edwards.

Now comes the biggest test for Atholton. On Saturday, the Raiders will face an undefeated Loch Raven team that has dropped just five games all season.

Though Atholton has been on a roll since upsetting Glenelg in PTC three games last Wednesday in the regional semifinals, players say they wish they could have had a tougher match in preparation.

"We'll be facing a really strong team, so I wish we could've faced tougher competition today," said Williams. "It will go five games [Saturday], guaranteed. We're in for a tough match, but we'll be ready."

Kessinger echoed her player's comments.

"I can't wait to go home and practice for them," said the Atholton coach. "We'll definitely be prepared."

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