By DANIEL KAUFFMAN
11:33 PM EST, November 7, 2012
On paper, Boonsboro’s volleyball team appeared capable of turning Wednesday night’s Maryland Class 1A West semifinal at three-time defending state champion Smithsburg into one of the toughest challenges the Leopards have faced during their run.
Instead, Smithsburg powered its way to its 15th straight playoff sweep and 17th straight playoff victory, 25-18, 25-11, 25-23.
“When I first saw the draw, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve got to face Clear Spring, a scrappy team, and then Boonsboro, and then Fort Hill,” said Leopards coach Rachel Brashear. “Our mentality is ‘Let’s play one match at a time, survive and advance.’ Playing tougher competition the first two rounds, we’re playing better volleyball now.”
Smithsburg (14-3) will host Fort Hill (13-3) in the 1A West final Friday at 6 p.m. It’s the fourth straight year the Leopards will host the Sentinels in the region final, with Smithsburg sweeping to victories each of the last three years.
Boonsboro (8-7) played Smithsburg tough in the season opener for both teams, taking a 2-1 lead in sets before the Leopards rallied for a five-set victory. Wednesday’s playoff rematch was long expected, but to Warriors coach Andrea Parry’s dismay, her team did not bring its ‘A’ game into Smithsburg’s gym, committing 32 errors.
“It’s very disappointing,” Parry said. “It’s tough to go out knowing we’re a much better team than we showed tonight. We lacked intensity from the very beginning. I don’t know why, but we didn’t start playing until late in the third game.”
The Leopards used several mini-runs to pull away in Set 1. A 3-0 run made it 3-2, a 5-0 run made it 8-4, another 5-0 run made it 14-7 and a 4-0 run made it 19-9. Haley Caudell had five kills in the set and Amanda Snowden added four kills as Smithsburg’s top two attackers established themselves.
Boonsboro did not put together a run of more than two points until late in Set 1, when a 4-0 run only served to make the final score closer.
“It’s all about momentum, and I tell the girls we can’t give up more than three points in a row,” Brashear said.
The Leopards kept the momentum in Set 2, ending the set on a 15-2 run to pull away to a shockingly easy victory. The Warriors gave Smithsburg eight of those points on errors, while Snowden (five kills), Caudell (three kills) and Emily Seward (two kills and a block) did damage up front.
“I knew we had to come out fast that game,” Brashear said. “I didn’t want to give (Boonsboro) any light at the end of the tunnel.”
Set 3 was a much closer affair, with the Warriors showing some heart and energy to turn a 17-12 deficit into a 23-22 lead late. But Caudell tied the score with a kill and Snowden ended the set and the match with two more kills, giving her seven for the set and a match-high 16 in all.
“We just knew we had to get the job done,” Snowden said. “Even when it was close, we knew we couldn’t let down and had to put the ball away. ... We were aiming for taking it in three, and we got the job done.”
“We didn’t want the momentum to switch, and Amanda refused to lose,” Brashear said. “When the game is on the line, she wants the ball, wants to put it away, and she has that confidence.”
Caudell had 12 kills, Seward had four kills and two blocks, Hollee Winders had four kills and Payton Belella finished with 31 assists, two kills and two aces for the Leopards. On defense, Marissa Dangler had 10 digs, Snowden had seven and Jenny Fritts added five.
Taylor Williams had eight kills and three blocks, Sarah Anderson had six kills and four blocks, Maggie Sullivan had three kills and four blocks, Shelby Griffith had six assists, three kills and two aces, and Shelby Wallace added 10 assists for Boonsboro.
“We’ve had outstanding senior leadership from Day 1, especially from the setters (Griffith and Wallace). They will be missed,” Parry said. “This has been by far the best team that I have coached as far as team chemistry from Day 1. It’s been enjoyable, and that’s why this loss is so hard.”
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