2016 IAAM C CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONS ST. FRANCES ACADEMY
History was made Saturday at Roland Park Country School as Maryvale Prep and St. Frances Academy claimed IAAM volleyball championships.
The Panthers won the C title with a four-set victory (25-23, 20-25, 26-24, 25-19) over Friends School while Maryvale Prep swept St. Mary’s (25-15, 25-22, 25-20) in the B finale. It’s the first championship for both programs.
Hours after its football program won its first MIAA A Conference title, St. Frances completed a perfect run in league play. It’s the first non-basketball IAAM championship for the east Baltimore school.
“Last year our priority was trying to o get the girls understand the game a little better,” said St. Frances coach Janisha Thomas. “This year, it was really about getting the right priorities, making sure that we’re disciplined enough to do the bump-set-spike and make sure they knew how to cover on defense and work offense.”
“Our journey has been very long. We worked hard for this,” said St. Frances outside hitter Mia Davis. “We worked everyday. We earned this.”
The Panthers (14-1 overall) were challneged in their penultimate game by Friends, which lost in four sets during the regular season. After splitting the first two sets, St. Frances had a commanding 17-9 lead in third set after Moore’s ace.
But Friends (11-4) stormed back, gaining a 24-22 lead. St. Frances answered as Davis tied the match at 24 on a kill, forcing deuce. Freshman Angel Reese gave the Panthers the advantage at 25-24 with an ace. A Friends hitting error gave St. Frances a 2-1 set lead.
“Friends was everywhere they hustled for every ball. They did an awesome job of covering,” said Thomas. “We just lost our rhythm for a game and we were able to find it.”
The Panthers broke away from Friends in the fourth set, securing a 11-point advantage. Davis landed a kill in the corner, setting off a celebration.
“A lot of people doubt us because we play basketball, but everybody put their time in,” said St. Frances junior hitter Taneara Moore. “Eventhough volleyball isn’t our No. 1 sport, we went hard everyday.”
The wait is over for Maryvale, which posted the only sweep on Championship Saturday. Senior outside hitter Brooke Franklin led the Lions (13-5) with 15 kills.
“I’ve been so close to winning a championship,” said Franklin. “I’ve been on this team for 4 years and what a way to go out.”
It was a perfect ending for Franklin and fellow seniors Hannah Laue, Kacie Galloway, Kelly Mellendick, Tejal Hanel and Bryana Chambers. The previous three sasons, Maryvale lost in the semifinal round.
The Lions got over the proverbial hump, beating 7th-seeded Catholic in four sets in Thursday’s semifinal. Catholic upended No. 2 seed St. Vincent Pallotti in the quarterfinals.
Maryvale wasn’t going to denied Saturday against the No. 4 seed Saints who upset top-seed Annapolis Area Christian School in the semifinals. The Lions dominated the opening set, but St. Mary’s (14-5) responded in the second set, leading 17-11.
Trailing 19-12, Maryvale ran off 10 straight points for a 22-19 advantage. A pair of kills by Franklin helped the Lions closed out the set.
The third set was close, but Kayla Koch’s ace which gave Maryvale a 15-14 lead, opening the championship door for the Lions.
“I told them before the game that everything should be left out here tonight everything. You will never get this moment back,” said St. Mary’s senior setter Alexa Poss. “Beating Annapolis Area was our highlight no question. Beating them and being in the championship was amazing.
First in school history to make it that far. That just says everything. Maryvale was a great team.”
And, finally, a championship team.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said Hanel.