T. Johnson's serves dispatch Liberty

11th win leaves Patriots on verge of clinching conference championship

Volleyball

October 23, 2002|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Moments before last night's key Central Maryland Conference volleyball match against Thomas Johnson, Liberty coach Dave Trumbo delivered some prophetic words to his 11th-ranked team.

"The team that's going to win is whoever serves better," Trumbo said.

The visiting Patriots then proceeded to serve up a masterpiece on their way to a 15-11, 15-10, 15-13 win that put them on the verge of clinching the conference title.

The Frederick team served 90 percent with 12 aces over the first two games, constantly keeping Liberty off balance and out of synch.

"I was calling spots [on the floor], and we were hitting those spots on a regular basis," Thomas Johnson coach Jim Dorsch said. "Serving was a big factor, and we served very well. "

Said Trumbo: "They served better and we passed poorer. We kept giving them back free balls off serve-receive. On the other hand, our serves were right to them, not even in the seam."

Thomas Johnson (11-1 overall, 6-0 league) can now clinch the CMC title if it wins either of its final two regular-season matches, against Urbana and North Carroll, or if the Lions (10-2, 5-1) lose either of theirs to Frederick or up-and-coming South Carroll.

Unlike the Patriots' epic, five-game win over the Lions earlier this season, this one was never really in doubt.

Led by 5-foot-10 outside hitter Erin Maldo (11 kills), the Patriots rarely wasted opportunities to score off free balls. Despite being blanketed by a double team, Maldo time and again delivered thunderous kills.

"In practice yesterday, we were told to focus, and that's what we did," Maldo said. "We were ready."

Said Trumbo of Maldo: "That's what a Division I player looks like. We camped on her, and said, `We're going to try to stop her and make somebody else beat us.' That left a single block other places."

With Thomas Johnson's other front-line hitters drawing only single coverage, teammates Lauren Graham and Jessica Goode also stepped up with six kills each, making the Patriots even more difficult to defend.

Goode also delivered three straight aces in the first game to help give her team a 6-2 lead. After the Patriots withstood a mid-game surge, they then regrouped to score seven of the final 11 points.

The Patriots, whose only loss this season was to Monocacy Valley Athletic League front-runner Smithsburg, then raced to a 5-1 lead in Game 2 before Liberty, led by 5-10 sophomore Meghan McConville (seven kills, one block) rallied to pull within a point.

The Lions, however, could never pull ahead, and surrendered the final four points to go down 2-0 in games.

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