By DANIEL KAUFFMAN
12:35 AM EST, November 17, 2012
COLLEGE PARK, Md.
They’re still the queens of Maryland Class 1A volleyball.
Smithsburg made it four straight state championships on Friday night with an authoritative 25-10, 25-5, 25-4 blowout of Perryville at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
The Leopards (17-3) matched Williamsport’s Class 1A championship run from 2002 to 2005 as the longest in the history of Washington County volleyball. They earned their ninth state title overall — tying Northern Calvert for third-most in state history — and the 25th state title for Washington County volleyball teams, which have won 22 of the last 32 Class 1A championships.
“I just told them in the locker room how incredibly proud I am of them,” said Smithsburg coach Rachel Brashear. “This is a team in every sense of the word.”
Friday’s Class 1A final was a rematch of last year’s title match, also won in a sweep by Smithsburg. The Leopards have won 20 straight playoff matches, including the last 18 in sweeps. They’ve won their last 55 playoff sets, a phenomenal accomplishment.
“It’s Leopard volleyball: We give it all we have and put it all on the floor,” said Haley Caudell, a senior who has been part of the last three championships — during which time Smithsburg has not lost a playoff set. “We know that one loss (in the playoffs) and you’re out. We have high expectations and the community has high expectations.”
The Leopards started meeting those expectations from the start of Friday’s match.
Smithsburg used a six-point run to take a 6-1 in Set 1. It was the first of its four runs of at least four straight points in the set and nine for the match — the longest run for Perryville (13-7) was three points.
The Leopards spread around the scoring in Set 1. Freshman Hollee Winders had three kills, Caudell had two kills and junior Amanda Snowden had a kill and two aces.
“It was a lot of fun and such a great experience,” said Winders of her first state tournament. “I’ve never been a part of anything like it and the crowd was amazing.”
Snowden, the team’s top hitter, started asserting herself both at the net and the service line in Set 2. She had six kills and a block in Smithsburg’s first 12 points of the set, then served five aces in a 13-0 run that ended it.
“After the first couple (aces), I was just putting them in,” Snowden said. “Point after point, it was just like, ‘Wow!’”
Snowden added five kills and two aces in Set 3, which the Leopards opened with a 6-0 run before scoring 11 straight points for a 22-3 lead. Caudell had four kills and an ace, junior Jenny Fritts served two aces and freshman Alaina Black added two kills.
Sophomore Payton Belella finished with 27 assists and two aces for Smithsburg. Snowden had 12 kills and nine aces, Caudell had seven kills, Winders had five kills and Fritts and Jessica Sensenbaugh each added three aces.
“Smithsburg is huge, and we don’t play a lot of teams that have their speed,” Perryville coach Sara Farnham said. “They’ve got some amazing players.”
The Leopards will graduate just three players — with Caudell being the biggest departure. With most of the team coming back, including several key pieces for two or three more years, the future appears as bright as Smithsburg’s storied past.
Two players — Belella and Black — watched older sisters Taylor Belella and Colleen Black win titles in 2009 and 2010.
“Just watching my older sister play and seeing how much they enjoyed it, it made me see what Smithsburg volleyball is all about and I wanted to be a part of it,” Payton Belella said.
“We’re going to ride this wave as long as we can,” Brashear said. “We’ll have a solid group coming back.”
Copyright © 2013, Herald Mail