F.S. Key stays calm, plays loose, wins state championship in romp Eagles easily soar past Williamsport in 3 games

1A volleyball

November 17, 1996|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,SUN STAFF

Catonsville Community College's big arena is now just another place for the Francis Scott Key Eagles to have fun playing volleyball.

Williamsport was the opponent which had to be there to make the story complete.

Far removed from last year's state final loss to their Monocacy Valley Athletic League rival from Washington County, the No. 6 Eagles are the 1996 Class 1A state champions after their surprisingly easy 15-10, 15-13, 15-1 sweep over the Wildcats yesterday afternoon.

It was the fifth state title for the 18-1 Eagles, who also avenged their only loss of this regular season. On Oct. 24, Williamsport (16-2) defeated Key in four games to decide the MVAL championship.

"It's a great feeling. It's neat to see how everything fell into place. Our girls were not going to be denied this year," said Key coach Leo Totten.

Last year, a junior-dominated Key team made its first journey to Catonsville and were in awe of the big gym and all the attention of a state final. The experience proved necessary for better things to come.

What a difference a year makes.

"One thing we worked hard on the last two weeks was staying as relaxed as possible and having as much fun as possible. We did that," said Totten.

The Eagles also worked hard on improving their defensive play which made their offense that much better.

With Nicole Keffer, Heather Abel and Ayrika Frock getting to nearly everything the Wildcats sent their way, senior setter Erin Ness (21 assists) was getting the good first hits she needed to set senior hitters Stephanie Stambaugh (12 kills) and Cindy Sheedy (10 kills).

Yesterday, the Eagles had everything working -- solid serving, defensive gets and their power game mixed in with a dink here and there. The Wildcats had no answers.

"Everything fell into place. It was wonderful," said Stambaugh, .. who was a dominating player at the net throughout. "Last year, we beat them in the regular season so we didn't change very much going into the final. This year, they beat us so we took a closer look at the videotape and saw some things we practiced on."

Added Ness: "The defense did really well to pick up everything -- it was amazing. I was told to set whoever was on, but everyone was on so we kept mixing it up."

The nerves that played such an integral part in last year's outcome were never apparent with the Eagles this time around. They even had one of the line judges smiling with them during a brief break in the second game.

"We weren't nervous at all. This time, we came in thinking this was just another gym," said Keffer. "Last year, we played nervous and knew we wouldn't win if we did it again. So we stayed calm and knew this was going to be our last game playing together. We all love each other and weren't going to lose."

After coming back from an 8-2 deficit in the first game and holding off a Williamsport rally to win the second, the Eagles knew it would be their year.

It was 14-1 in game three when Abel, who averages a kill a game, got her biggest ever, going across the court for a winner to send the Key crowd in a frenzy.

"This place doesn't look so big now," Ness said.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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