A week after beating Broadneck and just days after sweeping through the Arundel tournament, the Severna Park volleyball team improved to 10-0 overall, 4-0 in official matches and 2-0 in county competition on September 24 with a 25-18, 25-11, 25-22 home defeat of Arundel.
Tara Register led a balanced Falcon offensive attack with 13 kills, while Angela Cottrell and Hailey O’Mara notched nine kills apiece and Shannon Fletcher and Morgan Kline had six and five kills, respectively.
Kline, the team’s setter, handed out 30 assists to go with a team-high 17 digs and 16 of 16 serving in the win, while Register fortified the defense with 11 digs of her own and senior defensive specialist Ashley Poling notched 10 digs along with five assists.
Sophomore Ally Winship carved out a place in the Falcons’ senior-heavy rotation with a dig and an assist to go with 10 of 11 serving.
The win over the Wildcats kept the momentum for the reigning Class 4A state-champion Falcons, who posted victories over Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) A Conference contenders McDonogh and Archbishop Spalding to open the fall season before beating top county rivals Broadneck and Arundel in consecutive weeks.
At the Arundel tournament over the weekend of September 19-20, Severna Park went 6-0, beating Broadneck, St. Mary’s Ryken, Centennial and Mount de Sales in pool play before topping River Hill in the tournament semifinals and the Bruins yet again in the finals.
The Falcons cruised past Annapolis 3-0 (25-6, 25-12, 25-7) on September 29 to move to 11-0 overall and 3-0 in county.
Severna Park has looked impressive in running its overall record to 11-0, but good luck getting head coach Tim Dunbar excited over the September play of the state’s volleyball standard-bearer.
“We have a lot to work on,” was Dunbar’s opening remark following the Falcons’ home win over Arundel. “There’s some holes in our play both offensively and defensively.”
But the 10-0 start is also a pretty good sign things are on the right track, right?
“Overall, I’m pretty pleased,” said Dunbar. “When we play well, we’re very difficult to beat.”
Arundel didn’t make matters easy on Severna Park on September 24, nor did Broadneck the week prior (Severna Park swept that match on the Bruins’ home court, but in three close games: 25-22, 25-23, 25-22). And there won’t be any letup for the Falcons; as part of this year’s tiered system in county play, Severna Park will play Broadneck and Arundel again and must still play South River twice. Having already beaten Broadneck three times including tournament play, the Falcons and Bruins could theoretically meet as many as five times this season if they were to meet again in the region playoffs.
The stacked schedule makes for an interesting wrinkle the team didn’t have to deal with last year.
“I think it makes it easier in the sense that we know we can beat them,” said Dunbar of the tiered schedule. “They don’t know they can beat us. But it makes it harder in the sense that, you see someone so many times, they start to find out where your weaknesses are, they start making corrections to their game to minimize their weaknesses, and it gets harder each time.”
The Falcons encountered this reality last season when they played South River three times, beating the Seahawks solidly in the first two meetings before needing all five games to top the Seahawks in the 4A East region final.
Register said early-season matches against strong opponents in McDonogh, Spalding, Centennial, Mount de Sales and River Hill have tested the team’s mettle.
“It’s good that we started out with a tough schedule early on,” she said. “We’ve been in a lot of tough situations, including this past weekend [at the Arundel tournament]…We practiced a lot last year being composed in tight situations, and I think that’s continued this year.”
As for the tiered system and the multiple meetings with Arundel, Broadneck and South River, Register’s a fan.
“I definitely like it,” she said. “It makes us a better team and it makes county ball more interesting. We can’t take a night off though. We definitely have to be ready to play every night. Last year was rewarding in itself, but this year having a harder schedule makes it that much more exciting.”
Naturally, Dunbar took the long view, saying that the unbeaten start is great, but the Falcons want to avoid coming out flat in any matches or peaking too early in the season.
“It’s a long season, and it’s still September,” said Dunbar. “So, there’s a lot of tough teams on our schedule remaining, and we just have to get a little bit better each time out.”