No. 4 South River shows its moves in a 3-2 vollyeball victory over No. 3 Howard


Savanah Doctor and Samantha Tarabella

Savanah Doctor (left) and Samantha Tarabella dominated play and danced between points in leading No. 4 South River to a come-from-behind volleyball victory over No. 3 Howard.

by Pat O’Malley

The South River High volleyball team can play their sport very well and two of their star players could become contestants for “Dancing With the Stars,” at least for their energy.

It took five games, but the fourth-ranked Seahawks literally “danced” to a 3-2 victory over visiting and No. 3 Howard Tuesday night in a matchup of two of the area’s top teams from Anne Arundel and Howard counties. South River bounced back from a 2-1 deficit to take the last two games of the match to slip by the Lions, 17-25, 25-15, 14-25, 25-17 and 15-12 in Edgewater.

Loaded with a bevy of talented juniors, including an outstanding pair of outside hitters in Samantha Tarabella and Savanah Doctor, who danced the entire match after big plays, big hits, defensive gems and stellar contributions of their own and their teammates, the Hawks excel on the court and they have fun. In fact, they have fun from the first whistle to the last.

“We’re young but I am really excited about this team,” said South River’s veteran coach Maureen “Mo” Carter. “This was a pretty big win.”

The Seahawks (3-0 overall) could easily have played five more games. Of course, they were happy they won, but they acted as if they wanted to keep playing – and – dancing for their fans and their JV mates who were in attendance cheering on the varsity girls.

“We play with a lot of energy,” said Tarabella, a 6-footer who at times dominated play with her size, quickness and strength on her laser-like kills to deliver a match-high 24 kills, 17 digs and was a perfect 15-for-15 serving. “We have a lot of juniors (8 juniors and only 4 seniors) on this team and we try to be leaders. We want everybody not to stop hustling. Savanah and I love to dance out there and we keep it up as you noticed.

It’s good to show enthusiasm. It brings up the whole team.”

Samantha’s dancing partner, the 5-foot-10 Savanagh hit 9 kills and had 23 digs. Tarabella and Doctor also cited two other juniors for their superb play in setter Emily Speciale and right side force, 6-foot Erin Canter. Speciale was 25-for-25 serving and dished out 47 assists and topped off her numbers with four digs and an ace.

Canter fired 10 kills over the net and was a calming influence throughout.

“It took us a little while to figure them out and we started finding more holes in the fourth game,” said Canter. “It was a really big win over a very good team.”

Howard got powerful hitting from senior outside hitters and team captains Anna Jezerski and Madison Paige. Jezerski had five kills in the first game and she and Paige combined for four of the last five points in the 25-17 win. The game started with five ties, the last at 9 before Howard started pull away.

South River came back strong in game two jumping out 7-0 and after a run by the Lions got out to 19-12, 23-13 and finally 25-15 to tie things up on a wicked kill by Tarabella. With Jezerski lighting it up, the Lions took game three by 25-14.

With their backs against the wall, the Hawks found the holes in the fourth game as Canter mentioned to post the 8-point victory by 25-17 and led all the way from 1-0 to the final score. There was one tie at 2-2, but that was it.

The South River advantage got to 18-10 off a block by Doctor, but the Lions climbed back to a 19-14 deficit on a kill by Paige. The Lions got no closer as the Hawks pulled away on the persistent pressure at the net by Tarabella and Doctor.

Needing just 15 points to win the tiebreaker, South River fought through five ties, the last at 9, to survive a back-and-forth battle that pulled the Lions within two at 14-12. Tarabella ended it taking a pass from Speciale and pounding the ball into the floor on the other side of the net.

Howard fell to 3-2, with both losses coming at the hands of Anne Arundel County powers, No. 2 Arundel (4-0) and South River. The latter now owns victories over a trio of ranked squads in No. 5 Centennial, No. 11 Broadneck and Howard.