Loch Raven certainly picked the right time to peak.
The No. 14-ranked Raiders capped a week of their best volleyball of the season with a 15-12, 12-15, 15-4, 15-8 upset of No. 7 Lansdowne for the Class 2A North region championship last night.
Every player on the court contributed to the Raiders' effort, which included a come-from-behind victory in the first game. Sarah Flora led Loch Raven with 14 kills, and Jill Bishop and Lindsay Dugent had eight each.
"We really played as a team tonight," said Dugent. "During the regular season, we worked together but not as well as we did tonight. We peaked at the perfect time and we want to keep going."
The Raiders (13-5) will meet the winner of tonight's match between No. 1 Centennial and McDonough in a state semifinal Wednesday night at Essex Community College. The Eagles (16-0) have won six titles in Class 3A over the last nine years and have not lost a match in two years.
The last time the Raiders went to the state tournament, in 1994, they won the Class 2A title.
Last night, the Raiders avenged a mid-season four-game loss to the Vikings (17-2) with strong serving, solid defense and a versatile net game. In the earlier match, the Raiders missed 21 serves. Last night, they missed six.
The Raiders also adjusted their game to keep the ball away from the Vikings' 6-2 middle blocker Chris Happel as much as possible.
Setter Leah Runyan went to outside hitters Dugent and Rachel Zitnik (three kills) more often. Middle hitters Flora and Bishop mixed up the speed on their hits and later in the match moved a few steps to the outside.
"At the beginning, our middles were coming straight on," said Raiders coach Carol McPherson, "and I moved my kids into the seams, so their middle had to move more. She couldn't catch up with them."
The Vikings blew an early lead in the first and second games but rallied to win the second on strong serving, especially from Marjorie Irias, Lisa Brooks and Sarah Grimes.
In the last two games, Loch Raven took early leads and held on.
In the fourth game, the Vikings staged a rally but not until they trailed 13-3. Happel had three big blocks and one of her 10 kills as the Vikings pulled within 13-7, but they could get no closer. The Raiders closed out the match on two Flora kills.
"Their defense took us out of our offense," said Lansdowne coach Jason Dykstra, who also got five kills from Grimes and four from Dawn Johns.
"Every time we got set up, we took control of the game. When we had a chance to set up our offense, we had a shot, but their defense was just spectacular."
C. Milton Wright 3, Aberdeen 0: Jen Thompson had six kills to lead the host Mustangs (14-3) past the Eagles, 15-8, 15-1, 15-5, for the Class 3A North region championship. Megan Hube had four aces for Wright, which advances to the state semifinals Wednesday night.
Sparrows Point 3, Hereford 0: The visiting Pointers swept the Bulls, 15-9, 15-7, 15-12, for the Class 1A North region title and will play No. 4-ranked Glenelg in a state semifinal Tuesday night at Essex Community College.
Pub Date: 11/08/97