Down 24-14 in the first set of Indian Creek’s championship volleyball match with Friends at Goucher College on October 27, it looked like the No. 1 Eagles’ dream season might be heading toward a bitter end.
But the Eagles embodied their mantra—“fight”—to rally for an improbable comeback, win the set and go on to claim the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland C Conference championship 3-0 (30-28, 25-23, 25-20).
It was a storybook finish for the Eagles, who were playing their first season of varsity volleyball after starting as a club team last season.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said senior Alexandra Walls, who spearheaded the initiative to create the volleyball program at Indian Creek with her now-graduated sister, Gabrielle. “It was completely full circle. I’ve been working on this since I was in eighth grade with my sister, she and I love volleyball, and it’s something we do together. Last year we had a club team, and this year we had an official team and we won the championship.”
The fledgling Eagles (10-1) didn’t suffer the basement-dwelling seasons that typically accompany a new program, instead bursting onto the scene and quickly establishing themselves as legitimate title contenders in the IAAM C.
Indian Creek lost only to St. Timothy’s on September 25 and entered the postseason on a seven-game win streak. Following wins over Key and Beth Tfiloh in the playoffs, the No. 1-seed Eagles arrived at Goucher ready to cement the program as bonafide champions against Friends.
Even when the Quakers had 10 chances to ignite an upset bid by winning the first set, the Eagles were undeterred. Junior captain Reese Fortier served 11 straight points to put the Eagles up, 25-24, and the teams jockeyed back and forth until Walls scored on a kill to win the set, 30-28.
Coach Corey Somerville said the first set showed the Eagles staying true to their motto.
“We’ve been here before, and our motto is ‘fight,’” Somerville said. “We may mess up, we may have first-match jitters, whatever the case, but we’re going to fight. When you come up against Indian Creek, you’ve got a fight on your hands. You better be ready to go 12 rounds, because we’re going to fight to the end. We may get down, but we’re not giving up.”
Fortier steadied her teammates in a timeout when the team faced Friends’ set point down 24-14.
“I just told everyone to take a deep breath and play our game, play how we know how to play,” Fortier said. “We know how to pass, and we beat them before. We just had to take it one point at a time.”
Riding the momentum, the Eagles never trailed after breaking a 10-10 tie in a closely-battled second set, holding a slim lead the rest of the way and winning, 25-23.
By the time the Eagles raced out to a 7-0 lead in the third set, the Friends students who had been practically spilling onto the court while boisterously heckling Indian Creek’s players were now seated and quiet, checking their phones.
Indian Creek maintained control in a close third set. Outside hitter Laila Ivey finished the match with her 20th kill, a thunderous smash that ended the set 25-20 and vaulted the Eagles to their perch as conference champions.
Just a freshman, Ivey said the program is not slowing down from here.
“Our coach always told us to fight, so that’s what we did. We never gave up,” Ivey said. “We’ll just keep working and let all the new people know that we don’t play. We always work hard.”
Megan Kuhns, one of two seniors on the team with Walls, came up with a slew of key digs during the close second set and throughout the match. Sophomore setter Sarah Hawes had seven aces. Walls, Hawes, Charlotte Dickinson and Kaya Lesikar provided steady blocking at the net. Fortier and freshman defensive specialist Alex Allen were crucial to the team’s defense. Kuhns, Portia Fernandes, Julia Mead, Emma Bach, Sophie Whitney, Kalley Huff and Ashley Damm fortified the Eagles’ effort.
Somerville, who coaches the team with assistant Stephen Roth, said the Eagles overcame early struggles this season, took to his strength and conditioning training and turned their goals into reality.
“It was their ability to bring each other together,” said Somerville. “I came in and brought strength and conditioning and things like that. When they learned they could make it through that, it was just a build-up of heart and intensity and drive. We just kept it all season.”
The volleyball program is the latest athletic championship for Indian Creek, which produced champions in baseball and boys lacrosse last season and has past championships in boys soccer, girls lacrosse, boys basketball and girls basketball.
Fortier said the team’s goals grew and developed just as the players did, and the championship was a bonus to an already special season.
“I never thought we’d ever get here. Our coach came in at the beginning of the year and said, ‘We’re going to make it all the way to the championship, we’re going to take off and win it,’ and I said, ‘This guy’s crazy!’” Fortier said, laughing. “I said, ‘There’s no way.’ But he worked us hard, and we worked hard, and the more he believed in us and the more we started to believe in ourselves, the better we started to do. I think the most special part of it for me was just having a team and being part of a team and bringing everyone together, and we are all so close now and have such a tight-knit bond, that even if we had lost this game, the season would have been a win for us.”