By Harry Lichtman
GAITHERSBURG — On Monday night, the Quince Orchard Cougars varsity girls volleyball team took care of business and beat one of the best teams in Montgomery County, the Richard Montgomery Rockets, three sets to none.
The win for QO is remarkable, considering they lost one of their best players at the beginning of the season. Yet, the Cougars have gone on to win five of their last seven after starting 1-5.
“Our girls really came together tonight,” said QO head coach Allison Cable. “We had three outsides that we trained as middles, and they all came together in the middle, which made a big difference.”
Hitters such as junior Lena Mastracci, sophomore Emily Klaus, and senior Jessica Baniak contributed highly to the Cougars’ victory, as they helped the team win 25-18, 25-17 and 25-20.
“Jess has stepped up this season and had a really good season,” said Cable. “Tonight she showed her abilities, for sure, being able to send the ball to different hitters on the court.”
According to Cable, Klaus had a sprained ankle at the beginning of the season, and has “come a long way.”
Mastracci is one of QO’s outside hitters, who was trained as a middle for Monday’s game. “Tonight she really showed that she is capable of being a middle,” said Cable.
The Cougars controlled the majority of the first set, which resulted in their 25-18 victory. However, the second set was when they and the Rockets started to go neck-and-neck, with RM keeping the set close multiple times.
Finally, the third set could have gone either way, with RM leading 16-15, but QO overcame that deficit en route to their 25-20 win, which sealed it. Freshman Ella Roth came through in the clutch, putting up three kills toward the end.
“Ella’s another of our outsides that we trained as a middle,” said Cable. “She really stepped up tonight, showing us that she can play anywhere on the court, and being able to be smart with her plays. She’s a smart player.”
Meanwhile, a couple of players from Richard Montgomery who kept the game competitive were Kisha Yan and Sophia Taur, who both contributed with kills in each stanza, despite the loss.
However, the biggest standout for the Rockets was junior Laila Rogers, who did everything she could to keep her team in each set. Rogers has already committed to playing at the University of Virginia.
“Laila is instrumental in our team,” said RM head coach Gretchen Barber-Strunk. “We have yet to find a team that can handle her, which is nice, but it helps when the rest of my team and Laila play better on our side of the court. Like when we’re struggling, even though she’s cranking the ball, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”
With the win, the Cougars improve to 6-6 and will face the Wheaton Knights on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m., while the Rockets fall to 7-4 with the loss and will try to bounce back when they host the Walter Johnson Wildcats the same day at 6:30 p.m.
“We did not play our best tonight,” said Barber-Strunk. “But we will come back from that.”