Loch Raven comes back to collect a state title

November 20, 1994|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Sun

Loch Raven setter Shannon Towner has a simple explanation as to why her team seems to play better with its back against the wall.

"I think it's just the pressure," said The Baltimore Sun's 1993 City-County Player of the Year. "We see that we're going to lose if we don't start doing something."

Yesterday, after getting humbled in the first game by No. 6 Atholton in the Class 2A state championship match, second-ranked Loch Raven did something.

It swept its nervousness aside and won three straight games to capture its first state title since 1988, defeating Atholton, 2-15, 15-11, 15-11, 15-8 at Catonsville Community College.

The victory closed out an 18-0 season for Loch Raven, giving coach Carol McPherson her third state title since 1987.

But it didn't come without a little misery.

Loch Raven first had to overcome sloppiness and erratic play early in the match -- something McPherson attributed to nerves.

"We were nervous as anything," said the 14th-year coach, whose team is 108-8 since 1987. "I knew my kids could play better, and as a coach you just want your kids to play well, win or lose.

"They started to feel better when they got some points in the second game."

Though still shaky, Loch Raven -- a team that had lost just five games all season before yesterday -- began to exhibit the form that's earned it three straight Baltimore County titles.

Led by Towner (26 assists), Loch Raven began passing the ball more effectively, setting up hitters Tiggy Stevens (12 kills), Jaclyn Shields (10) Kelley Powell (nine) for the knock-out blows.

Loch Raven scored the first four points in the game, and its confidence slowly began to grow.

"At first we were thinking that maybe this team was better than us and we didn't deserve to be here," said Powell, Loch Raven's leader in kills.

"But after we went out and got a few points, that's when we said, 'Hey, we can do this.'"

Said Stevens: "We lost, 15-2, and I thought they would kill us, but we just pulled back. We just knew we had to play harder and pay more attention."

Although a struggle, Loch Raven pulled out both the second and third games, 15-11. With Atholton (14-7) looking more frustrated with each lost point, Loch Raven then cruised to a lopsided victory in Game 4 to close out the match.

"We were fighting ourselves instead of fighting to win the match," said Atholton coach Sybil Kessinger, whose team was led by Jennifer Ponzette (17 kills) and Amanda Williams (14). "We were just frustrated.

"You could look into some of our players' faces and see they already decided we were losing."

For Loch Raven, however, the mood was quite the opposite. As jubilant players posed for pictures with their championship plaques, McPherson paused a moment to reflect.

"I think this is the best team I've ever had," said McPherson. "We've got a lot of hitters and excellent defense."

And a state championship.

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