John Carroll rolled past St. Vincent Pallotti, 15-9, 15-1, 15-8, yesterday to win the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference volleyball title at Villa Julie.
Setter Margaret Luppino made the defensive play of the match, a rally-saving dig in a third-game run that dug the Patriots out of a 7-1 hole and built their lead to 10-3.
"Defense has been a huge factor," said Kayani Turner, a junior. "Without defense, you can't win volleyball games."
Turner, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, kicked off the run with a kill, but the momentum really swung the Patriots' way after Luppino dove after a ball headed out of bounds and kept it in play. The Patriots converted her save into a Brie Williams kill to keep the comeback alive.
"That was a key clincher," said Turner.
Luppino then served an ace and Turner pounded another kill to pull within 7-5, before five Pallotti mistakes helped the Patriots take command, 10-7.
The Panthers cut the lead to 10-8, but the Patriots reeled off the last five points of the match. Colleen Egan, a 6-2 middle blocker, hammered home the crown with the last of her five kills.
It was the first meeting between the two teams, because Pallotti (16-4) had canceled the regular-season match due to the sniper threats.
The Patriots built their championship season around Turner and a talented supporting cast that got a boost when senior Luppino and her sister Sarah, a freshman defensive specialist, transferred to John Carroll this fall.
"It helped to have Kayani, who is 6-1 and can jump and touch 10 feet," said Patriots coach Greg Cullison, "but we played better than the sum of our individual players.
"We've got one great player, a couple of good players, but the others are really overachievers. We work well as a unit and they believe in themselves."
St. Paul's completed a clean sweep through the conference with a hard-fought, team-driven 15-4, 10-15, 15-11, 8-15, 15-8 victory over St. Frances (6-6) for its title.
The Gators, whose starting setter, Wesley Michael, missed the match to attend a wedding, had their hands full contending with the Panthers' power-hitting duo of 5-11 Camille Coleman and 6-1 Angel McCoughtry, who combined for 38 kills, but their defense and a consistent offense proved up to the challenge.
The Gators (14-2 overall) got seven kills from middle hitter Carey Smith and four each from outside hitter Amara Hall and designated setter Blake Hargest.