The Severna Park volleyball team faced a sizable deficit in every set of its match against visiting River Hill on September 24 — not exactly the ideal path for coming away with a victory.
But the Falcons showed resilience by fighting for every point, making the defensive stands when they needed to, swinging the momentum with a torrent of thunderous kills and ultimately booking a 3-1 win (23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-22).
Maggie Sale and Skylar Sale had 17 and 16 kills, respectively; Sienna DeCicco dished out 45 assists; freshman Sydney Watts made 11 digs and junior Ally Fletcher had 9 kills to go with 4 digs and 100% service as the Falcons nearly climbed out of an 8-point hole in the first set, overcame a 6-point hurdle to win the second set and navigated neck-and-neck battles in the third and fourth sets to earn the W.
“You have to be ready for everything,” said Fletcher of the team’s ability to wrest the match away from the visiting Hawks. “As long as we have energy, we have the ability to win.”
The Falcons lacked organization early, and the Hawks took advantage, jumping out to and holding a lead until deep in the first set. When the longest rally of the match — a 30-touch marathon that brought the benches and onlooking families to their feet — ended in a River Hill point, Severna Park trailed 21-13, and the set looked like a sunk cost.
The Falcons were undeterred. They fought tooth and nail the rest of the way, ultimately closing to within a point at 24-23 and forcing a Hawks timeout. River Hill won the next point to take the set, but the message was clear: the Falcons were not giving anything away.
“This season we’ve always fought back,” said DeCicco, a junior. “We don’t play for the set. We play for each and every point.”
Severna Park stumbled out of the gate in the second set too, soon trailing River Hill 11-6, then 15-11, but the defense started to turn the game. Rachel Holly (6 digs), Kristen Murphy (2 digs), DeCicco (5 digs) and Watts kept the ball off the floor, while Maggie Sale (3 blocks, 4 digs), Skylar Sale (9 digs), freshman Ava Meadows (3 blocks) and Fletcher gave River Hill’s outside hitter — the tallest girl on the floor — problems at the net.
“I think the best feeling in the world is getting a block against a big hitter,” said Skylar Sale, one of just two seniors on the team. “Tonight our blocking was there. River Hill had a gigantic outside hitter, and we shut her down, and that’s a great feeling. It’s something we really work on in practice, and it’s cohesion with the people next to you, it’s not just you.”
With the defense clicking, Severna Park clawed its way back for points, getting a few crafty dump shots by DeCicco and key kills by Maggie Sale and Skylar Sale to overtake the Hawks and ultimately win the set 25-19.
In the third set, Severna Park built a lead and eventually held a 21-16 edge before River Hill went on a run to take a 22-21 lead. The Falcons tied the game, then got a kill by Fletcher, a deft Fletcher serve for a point and a Skyler Sale kill to ice the game, 25-22.
Severna Park was buoyed in the fourth set by sound defensive work by senior Yasmeen Mahmoud, who came into the game and made an immediate impact with 2 digs.
Still, the Falcons faced a 12-10 deficit before a booming kill by Maggie Sale, a block by Meadows and a tip by Sale gave the Falcons a 13-12 lead. Several digs by Watts, blocks by Murphy and Fletcher, service points by DeCicco and a kill by Fletcher had Severna Park in control at 19-18. Severna Park came out of a timeout with a kill by Maggie Sale, a kill and a block by Skylar Sale, a combined block by Skylar Sale and Meadows, and a match-clinching kill by Skylar Sale on the final point.
Falcon coach Tim Dunbar saw a young Falcons team, but one gaining in experience and savvy.
“We did a little bit of everything well, but we did a little bit of everything poorly too. We were inconsistent,” Dunbar said. “But I thought they gutted it out really well. The key thing I liked, especially after set 1 when they almost pulled it out, was they made a lot of adjustments. They started reading what the other team was doing and making adjustments on their own, and I didn’t have to tell them all the time where to be. They were thinking a step ahead, which is really good. They kind of picked up the flow.”
With a couple of freshmen — Watts and Meadows — getting significant playing time, and only two seniors, the Falcons are young, but there’s a base of skill that leads Dunbar to believe the team can be a force.
“This team does have a high ceiling,” Dunbar said. “This is one of those teams where we seem to get better as the games go on and the matches go on and the year goes on. We seem to do things a little bit better all the time. I don’t think we’re anywhere near our potential. I think they’re picking up things rather quickly and not making the same mistakes two and three times in a row. The other thing about this team is they’re very supportive of each other. You don’t have girls on the bench griping that they’re not getting in. If someone messes up the play you don’t have someone getting on their case. No girl feels like they’re totally responsible for a win or a loss, and they know they’re supportive of their team. You see it off the court too. They’re a very cohesive group.”
After the sting of a September 19 loss to Broadneck, the Falcons know nothing will come easy in the region, with Arundel and South River lurking as contenders as well.
Skylar Sale said the match against the Bruins was the first chapter of a story that peaks later this fall.
“I’m looking forward to seeing [Broadneck] in the playoffs,” said Sale. “The team did well against them, and we can do better. Our blocking has been better, our defense has been better. They have big hitters, but so do we, and we’re going to shut them down in the playoffs.”