Girls Volleyball

Focused Spalding hands St. Paul's first defeat of year

Teams finish in 3-way tie for first in IAAM A with Mt. de Sales

No. 10 Spalding 3 No. 1 St. Paul's 1

October 20, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special To The Sun

Archbishop Spalding wanted this match. The Cavaliers scouted St. Paul's, practiced extensively throughout the week and took every step possible to prepare for a rematch of last year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference final.

The work paid off last night, as No. 10 Spalding reeled off several long runs and took advantage of an uncharacteristically sloppy performance from top-ranked St. Paul's to hand the visiting Gators their first loss of the season, 25-15, 25-15, 19-25, 25-19.

St. Paul's (14-1) and Spalding (13-1) each finished 8-1 in the IAAM A Conference for a three-way, first-place tie with Mount de Sales to end the regular season. Which team gets the top seed in the coming conference tournament will be resolved next week.

Spalding beat the Gators in a five-game thriller in last year's title match but didn't need as much time in this contest. Kelly Galligan (eight kills), Stephanie Howard (eight kills) and Jennifer Rindone (six kills) constantly made plays at the net, while setters Andrea Catucci (16 assists) and Meagan Stolarski (10 assists) kept the offense moving.

"We just played hard the whole match," said Galligan, who went 11-for-12 serving with three aces. "We have a lot of heart as a team, and we wanted it a lot."

The Cavaliers cleverly mixed up where they were hitting the ball. Seeing the Gators often bring a few people to the net, Spalding found open, easy hits to the deep middle part of the court - and the Cavaliers constantly adjusted, staying one step ahead.

"They've got big blockers, and we had to get around them," Spalding coach Scott Rombach said. "But it was a whole team effort to win this match."

The Cavaliers used that team effort to go on runs that St. Paul's couldn't answer. A 7-1 run gave Spalding control of Game 1. The Gators started Game 2 with an 11-3 edge, but the Cavaliers shocked St. Paul's by scoring 22 of the next 26 points.

St. Paul's rallied to take Game 3, but the Cavaliers took charge with one final run. Bailey Webster (22 kills) nearly brought the Gators back in Game 4, helping cut the Spalding lead to 20-18 with several kills in a short span, but the Cavaliers scored the match's final five points.

However, St. Paul's made too many mistakes. Rachel Kelly (35 assists) did a good job of setting up Webster in the second half of the match, but the Gators often passed poorly or mishit the ball.

St. Paul's coach Kelli Wilkinson was glad to have Jillian Unitas (six kills) back after she missed nearly a month with a sprained ankle but said her team never found its rhythm on offense.

"We're usually a very good passing team," Wilkinson said. "We were just a little bit off today."

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