What looked like a rout turned into a nail-biter last night at Dulaney, as 11th-ranked Loch Raven, plastered in the first two games, regrouped to make a match of it.
No matter how they attained it, however, the sixth-ranked Lions wound up with what they were looking for, a Baltimore County Division I championship.
The Lions' 15-1, 15-2, 11-15, 15-12 win clinched first place and gave first-year coach Ian Blanchard, whose team is 11-1 overall, 9-0 in the division, a reason to celebrate.
"I was very happy with the way my kids performed," Blanchard said. "I've been so proud of them all season. They haven't let me down."
After winning 31 of the first 34 points in the match, however, the Lions came excruciatingly close.
Loch Raven (9-3, 8-3), led by hitters Jill Bishop and Sarah Flora, stopped making the mistakes that cost them early, won game three and held an 8-6 lead in game four.
"In the beginning, they were missing their passes and we took advantage," said Dulaney's Lisa Headd. "When they started getting their passes back, we just had to work harder."
Headd and Jody Costa (eight kills each) were instrumental in making sure that happened, helping their team win nine of the final 13 points to finish out the match.
"I know [Loch Raven coach] Carol McPherson, and I knew she was going to make some adjustments," said Blanchard. "I kept on telling my kids that they weren't just going to go away. We had to concentrate and play Dulaney volleyball."
Dulaney did the bulk of its damage with its serving game, collecting 17 aces and keeping the Raiders off balance for much of the night. To McPherson, however, it came down to mistakes.
"It looked like two weak performances, and ours was much weaker than theirs," said McPherson. "They were obviously beatable, but we beat ourselves the first two games."
Though upset with the loss, McPherson was pleased that her team refused to quit, and actually came within striking distance after seemingly having the door slammed in its face.
"I'm never happy to lose, but I'm very glad that they showed they can at least play volleyball," she said. "It's pretty depressing when you get beaten 15-1 or 15-2, but to be able to come back, that took a little courage on their part."
Jody Costa also had eight kills and five aces for Dulaney, and Melaney Heagy added six kills and three aces.
Blanchard said he's not surprised to see the Lions doing so well in his first year at the helm. After all, he said, he has coached many of the players on junior Olympic or club teams.
"To me this isn't really that much of a surprise," he said. "We lost a lot of talent last year, but I think this is a more balanced team."
Pub Date: 10/18/97