The upstart Winters Mill volleyball team looked to make a statement last night against two-time defending state champion Liberty.
In the end, however, it was the No. 2 Lions who showed they still rule Carroll County, winning the first two games before closing out the host No. 14 Falcons, 26-24, 25-15, 24-26, 25-19, to run their metro-area-record winning streak to 48 straight matches.
"We were so nervous for this [match]," said Liberty junior Melissa Stansbury. "We all just had so much energy and enthusiasm, and we pulled together and made it through."
Early, however, it seemed as if Winters Mill was primed for the upset.
Paced by outside hitter Megan Reed (12 kills), the Falcons built a 21-17 lead in the first game, building the momentum and spurring on a raucous home crowd.
Liberty (10-0, 4-0) then seized control, taking advantage of several key errors by Winters Mill (8-1, 2-1) to score 23 of the next 28 points - including several off Stansbury's jump serve - to close out the first game and build a 14-2 lead in the second.
"I think we came out in Game 1 and gave them a great fight," said Falcons coach Shelly Katzef, whose team last year lost to the Lions in three lopsided games. "Then we lost the momentum a little bit, and that kind of hurt us."
Liberty nearly pulled off the sweep, but failed to close out Game 3 after building a 24-19 lead. The Lions regrouped midway through Game 4 to build a comfortable cushion, ending the match on Laura Mazzota's ace.
Stansbury and Sam Walters each had 10 kills for the Lions, with Jen Schissler and Kristen Steinnagel adding eight each and Lauren Tabor compiling 37 assists.
"We have learned that if we're going to win, we're going to have to serve tough," said Liberty coach Dave Trumbo. "We started serving better, and we got some free balls back."