COLLEGE PARK, Md.—It was a matchup of Maryland’s high school volleyball titans, and it all came down to an Anne Arundel County rivalry.
Arundel’s volleyball players seized the final upper hand in their battle for supremacy with Broadneck, defeating the Bruins in five sets (25-21, 23-25, 25-14, 21-25, 15-10), to win the 4A state championship at Ritchie Coliseum on the University of Maryland campus on November 15.
The Wildcats finished the season 21-1 and won the program’s first state title after previous appearances in the final in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
“I’m so happy and so proud,” said Arundel 13th-year head coach Ashley Yuscavage. “We said on day one this is where we wanted to be at the end, and we made it happen. I could not be more proud of these girls.”
The game provided a stage and atmosphere unlike any in recent memory. The revamped playoff format this season, in which eight region champions are re-seeded into a state quarterfinal tournament, allowed for the No. 1 Wildcats and No. 6 Bruins to square up on opposite sides of the bracket. With both teams winning their way into the final, the Wildcats and Bruins had a rubber-match—Arundel won the regular-season matchup while Broadneck claimed the county championship—to decide the state’s champion.
Both school communities showed up in force to witness the winner-take-all match, packing the house at Ritchie Coliseum and bringing positively insane amounts of school spirit and energy for three hours of electric cheering.
The stage set and the atmosphere buzzing, the teams delivered an epic back-and-forth battle. Arundel’s superior serving, blocking, digs and hitting gave the Wildcats an edge when they clinched the first set on a Brooke Watts kill, but it wasn’t after holding off a Broadneck rally from 8-2 down.
In the second set the Bruins again rallied from an early deficit to take a lead midway through. Arundel rallied for a 23-22 lead, but the Bruins reeled off three straight points to close the set and keep the match within reach.
Students from both schools rattled the stands and sang “Sweet Caroline” in unison while jumping up and down. The student sections traded jabs and spirited jeers until, during the stoppage between sets, Arundel’s cheerleaders jumped onto the court and unleashed back hand springs and backflips. Not to be outdone, a Broadneck student ran down onto the court and responded with a back flip of his own—both crowds exploding in cheers and laughs and applause.
Arundel hit back in the third set, winning in the most convincing set of the day, 25-14. More back flip battles and cheer eruptions preceded the fourth set, which Broadneck controlled and won on a kill by Emma Quandt to force a decisive fifth set.
Broadneck senior libero Reiland Brown was proud the Bruins fought back and responded with victories each time they fell behind by a set.
“I’m really happy that we had the opportunity to fight for the win in the fifth set,” Brown said. “I’m glad that we worked so hard in every set, win or lose. The momentum can shift really quickly from side to side. It all comes down to who can make their serves. Unfortunately, we didn’t really execute that well. But when we did start getting momentum, we used it to our advantage, and you could see that in the second and fourth sets.”
With their goal at their fingertips, the Wildcats seized the opportunity. They jumped ahead in the truncated fifth set and held on to win, clinching the state title on a serve by Fiona Gonzalez Medina.
“We fought for it. We wanted it since the start, and we did it. We got it,” said Gonzalez Medina. “We had each other’s backs. The connection and the communication was amazing in this game and really helped us. We were really scrappy, covering our hitters, blocking, hitting it up, and we had this mentality where if we didn’t get it, it was okay, we’ll get the next one.”
Arundel’s players spoke confidently about the team, saying they knew they could avenge their one loss this season and bring the program its first state crown.
“There was never a moment when anyone felt alone,” said outside hitter Aaliyah Griffin. “We knew everyone had each other.”
Senior middle blocker Abrielle Scrivner said the team had full confidence it could defeat the Bruins.
“We knew that they did not match our athletic skills and that we would be able to really show out, and that’s what we did tonight,” said Scrivner.
Griffin, a junior, likewise spoke with confidence.
“We came in not nervous but excited for I guess what you could call a challenge, I guess,” Griffin said.
Watts, also a junior, appreciated the energetic support of Arundel’s students and families. “The day before, we went around to every class and told them to come to our game,” Watts said. “Just for them to show out the way they did, it was a big impact on the game for sure.”
Yuscavage said she knew this year would be a special year.
“Since our juniors were freshman, I knew this would be our season. It was about biding our time and getting ready. I texted Brooke this morning and said, ‘This is it. Let’s go, baby girl.’ This has been the biggest gift this group of girls could give me and give us, and I’m glad we were able to give them what they needed to do this. They are redefining what it means to be strong women. I could not be more proud that I get to be a part of what strong, smart, hardworking, beautiful women that my kids and so many kids can look up to. I’m just excited to be a part of this ride.”
With the majority of the team being juniors, Arundel may be in year one of a golden age.
“It’s really exciting,” said Yuscavage. “We’ve talked this whole season about taking one more step. Every game has to be a step forward. Our story isn’t over.”
Broadneck coach Tracy Regalbuto spoke with pride about her Bruins, who returned the program to contention this season. Broadneck won all six of the program’s state championships between 2000 and 2009 and was in the final or semifinal every year in that decade; this was the Bruins’ first trip to the final since winning it all in 2009. They finished 21-4, defeated rival Severna Park in the region final and came within a handful of points of a state crown.
“I have a very bittersweet feeling right now,” said Regalbuto. “I feel like I’m really proud of them for taking on that team and going to five [sets] and getting to this point. Obviously I’m a little disappointed we lost. We did not serve well and that was like a game-changer for them. If you can’t serve, you can’t win. So that was a little bit disappointing. But, I feel like I’m super proud of them for just fighting the entire time and never quitting. They fought every set. I’m just very proud of them.”
She added that the current seniors—Brown, Quandt, Neely Winter, Jill Carly, Grace Phelan and Brianna Demouy—instilled a culture of excellence at Broadneck.
“This year I’ve had the best group of seniors,” Regalbuto said. I haven’t had to teach much as far as expectation, dedication, commitment, all of that, work ethic, because they’ve demonstrated it, and there’s six of them. It’s hard to look around the gym and not see a senior that’s doing all of that. It’s been great having them. I feel like I have six other coaches in practice every day. They’re just good leaders and good people and good teammates. I never have to go into practice and say, ‘Today we work hard.’ It’s every day. It’s the standard. I feel like they’ve set that for the younger kids for years to come, and I’m proud of them for that, and thankful.”
Brown and Quandt said they relished their time playing Broadneck volleyball and seeing the community rally around them as they went on a deep playoff run.
“Honestly it’s such a good opportunity,” said Brown. “I got to meet some of my best friends. Just seeing our whole community out there supporting and us playing very hard, it’s just an amazing opportunity.”
Said Quandt, “It feels really good to have a lot of people come out and support you.”
Junior Makena Smith agreed and praised those around her for the experience.
“The team is a family for sure. We’re going to miss each other a lot. But, we fight for each other. Being part of the Broadneck nation is amazing,” Smith said.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”