Volleyball is a game of momentum, in which a dropped set or two doesn’t necessarily spell certain doom, and comebacks can happen in any match.
But when the Broadneck volleyball team took a 2-0 lead on rival Severna Park in the Class 4A East Region II final on Wednesday, the Bruins made certain: There was no such storyline in the making for the Falcons.
Emma Quandt recorded 11 kills, Natalie Luscomb had 11 service points, Makena Smith dished out 24 assists and the Bruins slammed the door shut on the visiting Falcons in straight sets, 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 25-8), to win the region title and reach the eight-team 4A state tournament that begins this weekend.
With the up-the-highway rivals coming to their gym Wednesday night and the Bruin students forming a spirited fan section for the game, head coach Tracy Regalbuto said Broadneck (15-2) abandoned its typical scheme-heavy game plan in favor of a call to live in the moment and let it rip.
“We usually give them goals before every game, and it’s usually a skill focus to do in that game,” said Regalbuto. “Tonight was, ‘Don’t think. Just play.’ That was just them cutting loose, playing and having fun, and they just did great.”
Playing free, the flow of the game was wholly dictated by the Bruins. Broadneck passed swiftly, dug out every Falcon dump, blocked relentlessly at the net, attacked from the outside and sprinkled aces throughout uninterrupted runs of points. Luscomb has 8 kills, Quandt had 6 service points, Smith had 19 service points and 7 digs, and Grace Phelan had 2 kills and 2 blocks to highlight Broadneck’s efforts. Brianna DeMouy, Reiland Brown, Madeline Stewart, Neely Winter and Jill Carty fortified a resounding and complete Broadneck win.
Quandt, a senior captain, said the Bruins brought the energy and were not about to let Severna Park end their season on their floor.
“We knew this was a really big game, and this could potentially have been out last game of the season, so we had to come out aggressive and strong and not let up at all, and I think we did that really well,” Quandt said. “We came out with a lot of energy. That kind of shocked them, and we were able to take over.”
In the teams’ regular-season matchup, Broadneck defeated Severna Park 3-0, but the individual sets were close, and both sides experienced continued improvement throughout the season. The Bruins proved their own progress with a county championship win over Arundel on October 28, which gave them confidence heading into the postseason, said Phelan.
“I think [beating Arundel] was huge,” said Phelan, a senior captain. “It really boosted our confidence and made us want to show them how great we were.”
Smith said the Bruins have been all business in staying on the grind to improve, never being satisfied with their wins.
“We beat [Severna Park] earlier in the season, but that was an incentive to work just as hard, because we know that they got a lot better,” Smith said. “They were really hyped for this game. We knew it was going to be a battle. We just went out there with everything we got and fought for each other.”
In a matchup of teams whose players are very familiar with each other from playing on the club circuit, Severna Park senior Skylar Sale gave credit where due on a night that belonged fully to the hosts.
“Broadneck outplayed us tonight,” Sale said. “They played really well. That’s better than they played on the tape we watched. They were very consistent. If we overpassed, they were hitting it back in our face. If we missed out, they were getting two aces. Volleyball is momentum, and they had it. They had a gigantic student section that was chanting in our ears, and it’s hard to focus when you’re getting it from everybody.”
The season is nonetheless a renaissance year for the Falcons. Severna Park has hovered around .500 in the past three seasons, but a rejuvenated and young Falcon team went 13-4 this year and notched a playoff win over Leonardtown on Monday.
Sale spoke proudly of the program and the season they had together.
“I love this team,” she said. “I think we came off a great win on Monday over Leonardtown. Our stats were through the roof. We played really consistently and really well. I’ve been here since my sophomore year, and we’ve never won a playoff game and we’ve been .500 the whole time. Never had a winning season [until this year], and this was an amazing season with such a young team. It was amazing to see everyone come out and play the whole season.”
Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar, who has all but two of his players returning next year, likewise spoke proudly of the Falcons’ year. He noted their progress, saying several girls played out of position and/or improved dramatically, citing the play of Kristen Murphy, Ally Fletcher, Hailey Betch and Sydney Watts.
“In 2015 we went to the state semifinals, but the last three years we’ve been about .500,” Dunbar said. “This year we’re 13-4 and two of our losses are to Broadneck who could win the state title, the other loss is to Arundel who could win the state title, and the other is to Peninsula Catholic, a two-time sate champion in Virginia, and we lost to them in five sets…But the biggest thing I like about this team is how much they like each other and how much they get along as human beings. That’s bigger than winning matches. You can win matches and have kids that are not fun to be around, but these kids are the nicest kids in the world. They’ll do anything for anyone, and they all get along. Yes, we’re disappointed, but we had a pretty good time for three months. Next year, we’ll be even stronger.”
The story continues for the Bruins, who will find out their state quarterfinal opponent when the eight region champions get seeded and games begins this weekend.
Quandt said the Bruins have a healthy respect for the rest of the field.
“We focus on resilience and bouncing back after mistakes, so we’re going to keep working, keep working hard in practice and prepare for every team we play and not take any team lightly,” Quandt said.
As Sale noted, the Broadneck students were in full attendance and offering spirited chants throughout the night. Regalbuto expressed her appreciation for the Bruin students and families.