COLLEGE PARK – The Damascus varsity girls volleyball team fell one set short of a state championship Friday night at the University of Maryland, falling to Northern High School of Calvert County 3-2 (25-20, 25-21, 23-25, 22-25, 15-9).
“They capitalized on our mistakes,” said Damascus head coach Rebecca Ronquillo. “I mean, we fought and we continued to fight and that’s one thing we strived upon no matter how far we came from behind. We’re still going to put up a battle, we’re not going to roll over.”
Damascus came in as a slight underdog, facing an undefeated (15-0, 6-0) opponent.
The victory marked Northern’s tenth state championship. The team’s placed runner-up three times and also ended up in the semifinals twice.
Northern head coach Bobby Gibbons noted a couple season firsts the Screamin’ Hornets accomplished against his team.
“This is the first time all year that we’ve had to go five sets, first time all year that someone’s taken two sets off of us in one night and, you know, you just got to salute them for a job well done,” said Gibbons.
On the other hand, Damascus was 7-0 in its league and 19-4 overall. The northern Montgomery County team has only won the state title once, in 2013, though the Hornets twice appeared in the finals.
The game started lopsided with the Patriots winning the first two sets.
Northern controlled the momentum in the first set as outside hitters Amy Hagen and Amanda Chew proved invaluable by tallying kill after kill.
The second set saw Damascus gain form but the Hornets narrowly lost the set by two points.
Near the end of the second set, trailing 24-21, sophomore setter Leonie Palmaers scored on a shot to center to put the game within two points before Northern closed it out.
The third set saw Damascus earn its first win of the night in what nearly ended in defeat.
Damascus senior middle blocker Suzanne Brady held down in defense but provided offense when needed, using her status as the tallest members of the team to her advantage.
“We could be losing 100-0 and still look the same as if we’re winning,” said Brady. “That’s why we came back.”
Brady was proficient in the fourth set once again, leading Damascus to a three-point victory and pushing the match into a decisive fifth set.
That set brought back Northern team seen earlier in the game, although Damascus briefly controlled the flow at first.
The Patriots played consistent and slowly widened the lead until the end result of 15-9, winning the championships for the first time since 2009.
Despite the tears as the Hornets consoled each other after the loss, Damascus did shine with some bright moments during the game.
During a time out, the players raised a picture of sophomore setter Alicia Harman, who couldn’t make it due to knee surgery that night.
“It’s a family thing. We can’t have one without the other,” said Ronquillo.