Seton Keough High’s volleyball team figured its best chance at victory against Mount de Sales Academy Thursday was keeping the ball away from Hannah Schmidt. But like the rest of the IAAM A Conference found out this fall, it’s reasonable in theory but nearly impossible to pull off.

The Sailor senior outside hitter posted a team-high 18 kills as No. 3 Mount de Sales defeated the No. 14 Gators in four sets, 25-11, 25-21, 25-27 and 25-18, in a tournament semifinal in Catonsville.

Junior outside hitter Taylor Beaumont finished with 15 kills for the Sailors (19-1 overall), and Chelsea Owensby provided 50 assists. Ijeoma Igwe had a game-high 19 kills for Seton Keough (13-5), and senior Liz Brown added 13 kills and two blocks.

Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Roland Park Country School, Mount de Sales will take on No. 6 Archbishop Spalding for possession of the IAAM A championship glass bowl. The Cavaliers rallied from a 0-2 deficit to defeat No. 11 St. Paul’s School in the other semifinal Thursday.

After losing a set for only the second time this season against league competition, Mount de Sales regained its offensive rhythm to punch its ticket to a third straight Championship Saturday.  Sailors coach Monica Owensby was pleased with her team’s resolve.

“Seton Keough earned every single point, it wasn’t something we gave away,” said Owensby. “They got aces on serves or hitting lines instead of angles, it was something you have to be ready for and adjust quickly. It took us awhile that fourth game to adjust.”

“In the break between the third and fourth game, our coach [Owensby] told us this was the last game for the seniors against Seton Keough and we need to win it for them,” said Schmidt. “We needed to pick up the intensity and play like we’re the No. 1 seed.”

The Sailors ran off six straight points for 10-3 lead early in the fourth game. Chelsea Owensby placed up a pass to Schmidt at net, and the UMBC-bound hitter powered it down, extending Mount de Sales’ advantage to 15-5. It was 18-7 after another Schmidt shot landed.

“Hannah Schmidt is by far the best player in the state,” said Seton Keough coach SJ Greenway, whose team took a set from the Sailors during the regular season. “We tried to take her out and it showed some. When she got into system, she took over. The game we won, we pretty much eliminated her, but they’re a sound team and they’re deep.”

jody schneider, chelsea owensby, hannah schmidtThe teams exchanged 20 points in the third game before Seton Keough itched out to a 17-15 advantage. Igwe forced a second deuce at 25 with a kill, then extended the Gators’ season with another kill to close out the game.

With Schmidt and Caroline Casey establishing their presence at the net, Mount de Sales won 14 of the final 18 points in game one, then eight of the first nine in game two. Casey had eight kills, Megan Sedney finished with 17 digs and Lily Glenn contributed four aces and nine digs.

“We really picked up our passing with Megan Sedney and Katie Delaney, Chelsea [Owensby] got her sets more consistent and the rest of us put it away,” said Schmidt.

The final obstacle for a three-peat Mount de Sales will be Spalding, which suffered its only loss to the Sailors in a sweep during the regular season. Only once in league history a team has won three consecutive championships.

“They’re a good team and they’re going to want to knock us off our pedestal,” said Schmidt. “This is the biggest game and we have to keep our intensity.”