No. 1 Arundel rallies past Broadneck in epic Anne Arundel volleyball opener (VIDEO HERE!)

Senior Ashley Barnes (left) and sophomore Kira Harmon helped sparked an impressive rally Tuesday by Arundel volleyball. The top-ranked Wildcats overcame a 2-0 set deficit to defeat No. 2 Broadneck in five sets in Gambrills.

by Derek Toney

Much has changed for Arundel High volleyball since its breakthrough season in 2019. One thing that hasn’t is its resolve.

The top-ranked Wildcats outlasted No. 2 Broadneck in five sets (14-25, 22-25, 26-24, 26-24, 15-10) in an Anne Arundel County battle of titans in Gambrills Tuesday. Audrey Owens and Zaria Ragler each had 10 kills for Arundel.

The Wildcats battled back from two sets down to claim the first of a potential four-game trilogy between the squads. They met three times in the fall 2019 season, capped with Arundel’s five-set victory in the Class 4A state championship match at the University of Maryland.

The Wildcats showed their mettle, going from a point away from defeat to remaining undefeated (3-0 overall, 1-0 Anne Arundel) in the early season.

“I think our passing was a little better, but I think we just didn’t give up on the balls we were giving up on in the first two sets,” said Arundel coach Ashley Yuscavage. “There was more of a fight there.”

“It was a difference of energy. Those first two sets got in our head and we got down on ourselves,” said Wildcat senior Ashley Barnes. “But we had our amazing fan base and our bench, it was just a change of energy.”

Trailing 19-10 in the third set, Arundel rallied to tie (23-23) only to face match elimination at 24-23 with Broadneck. The Wildcats took advantage of a Bruin hit and return error before Ragler’s set-clinching kill gave them new life.

Arundel establishing a 21-15 lead in the fourth, but Broadneck regrouped and pulled even at 24. After a Bruin error put the Wildcats on the brink, Taylor Johnson’s hit went off a Bruin player attempting to block at the net.

The ball landed in the middle of Broadneck’s defense, forcing a decisive fifth set.

“They’re (Broadneck) good. They were doing all the right things,” said Yuscavage. “We were just able to put some things together.”

Trailing 3-0 in the fifth, Arundel kept the lead after Ragler’s kill made it 5-4, and Barnes’ ace upped it to 10-6. The Bruins got to 12-10, but the Wildcats completed the improbable comeback as Broadneck wasn’t to return Audrey Owens’ hit.

Natalie Luscomb, who’s committed to Lehigh University, finished with 27 kills and two blocks for the Bruins (2-1, 0-1 Anne Arundel), and Bella Rubino added 10 kills. Madelyn Gwaltney had six kills and 47 assists.

Bruins coach Tracey Regalbuto wasn’t disappointed with the end result Tuesday, recognizing her team is growing with each match.

“It was a good game to watch,” said Regalbuto. “I’m just looking forward to the end of our season where everything is tightened up and perfected as to what we want to do…We can only get better from it.”

Yuscavage said Tuesday was great experience for her new underclassmen, who are being guided 2019 state title-team holdovers Barnes, Ragler, Owens, Emily Liu, Abigail Niles and Alannah Quick.

“For the first time, the seniors stepped up and said ‘we’re going to take control,'” said Yuscavage. “I was to see them fight multiple times when we were down. It’s a great way to start our season.”

Sophomore Kira Harmon had eight kills for the Wildcats, and Abigail Niles finished with 18 assists.

The Wildcats visit Broadneck Sept. 30. Another match in the Anne Arundel final late next month is a possibility, as well as another date in the 4A state postseason.

In 2019, Arundel defeated the Bruins in five sets at Ritchie Coliseum for its first state championship.

“A lot of people are saying this is supposed to be a rebuilding year, but we’re not thinking that way,” said Barnes. “We’re not going to stop. That’s what AVB (Arundel Volleyball) is all about.”