C. Milton Wright tunes up for regionals with sweep

Defense controls Western in 15-9, 15-9, 15-2 win

November 02, 1999|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Western's Ericka Butler had a season-high 16 kills yesterday, but the Doves could not stop No. 8 C. Milton Wright from sweeping the match, 15-9, 15-9, 15-2.

The Mustangs (14-0) had only 13 kills as a team -- Megan Hube had four and Elizabeth Anderson and Audra Turner three each -- but they played excellent team defense, served well and took advantage of Western's mistakes.

"This match we really clicked," said Mustangs setter Hayley North, who finished off the match with three aces. "We played better defense here than ever. This is one of the better teams we've played and we held it together when we got down."

The visiting Mustangs weren't down often. Even in the first two games when the Doves (9-2) took small initial leads, the Mustangs pulled ahead by four or five points midway through. Forced to play catch-up, the Doves managed to stall the Mustangs' momentum for a while, but they could not bounce back.

"We do have a problem playing from behind because we haven't had to," said Doves coach Matt Rushing, whose team had swept every match since a season-opening loss to No. 11 Mercy. "In the last game, it was 5-1 for seven changes of possession. We come out fighting, but once the other team gets the lead, we kind of second-guess ourselves. We start to think a little too much instead of just reacting."

In the second game, the Doves trailed, 10-5, but rallied to within 10-9, helped by a couple of C. Milton Wright hits into the net. But Lauren Horner stopped the Doves' rally with a point block against Joycia Gorham.

It took nine changes of possession, but the Mustangs finally finished off the game with five straight points. Ashley Blevins' tip gave the Mustangs the 15-9 win.

After that, the Doves didn't put up much of a battle. Hube started the third game with a kill to force a side out and North served two straight aces for a 2-0 lead. The Mustangs never trailed as they ran up 10 straight points en route to the victory.

Defensively, the Mustangs got better as the match went on, digging up just about everything in the final game. They adjusted to the Doves' short attack game, moving forward to cover the easy tips and Butler's frequent smashes inside the 10-foot line.

"She is an awesome hitter," North said of the Doves' junior outside hitter.

The final regular-season match for both teams could prove to be solid preparation for postseason action because neither team had seen much competition within its own league.

The Harford County champion Mustangs, who won their last two Class 3A regional titles, move straight into their Class 4A East regional playoffs next week after a first-round bye.

Western also has a bye in its Class 4A North region opener, but the Doves go for their fourth straight Baltimore City championship tomorrow, when they play host to Poly at 5 p.m.

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