Anne Arundel volleyball rivals take of business Tuesday for epic rematch in 4A state championship (VIDEO HERE!)

In this corner: Broadneck won the Anne Arundel County championship, handling then-No. 1 Arundel its first loss. The Bruins have won eight straight since a 4-set loss at Arundel Oct. 15.

by Katherine Dunn

Broadneck High and Arundel have played volleyball twice this fall, splitting their matches. Arundel won the regular-season meeting. Broadneck avenged that in the Anne Arundel County championship two weeks ago.

Now, they’ll settle the score Saturday in the state championship.

In Tuesday night’s Class 4A semifinals at Ritchie Coliseum in College Park, No. 2 Broadneck defeated No. 18 Dulaney, 3-0, and No. 3 Arundel beat Churchill, 3-1, to set up the showdown both teams wanted.

“We’re 1-1 right now. We need a tiebreaker,” Broadneck coach Tracey Regalbuto said.

In recent years, two Class 4A teams from Anne Arundel County could not have met in the state final. Only one could advance to the semifinals. A change this fall to eight regions with reseeded state quarterfinals allows more of the best teams a chance to advance to the title game.

“I feel like our county has been pretty dominant,” Reglabuto said, “and it makes it difficult when only one team can get out, so I’m happy that two Anne Arundel County schools are in the final four and … in the finals. I like [the new format] a lot better.”

For the two to meet, however, they had to be seeded on opposite sides of the quarterfinal bracket. With Arundel as the top-seed and Broadneck in the sixth-seeded spot, based on their regular-season records, it worked out.

“I thought this was a possibility,” said Arundel coach Ashley Yuscavage said. “And I guess maybe it seemed that we were inevitably set up to keep running into each other like this, but it’s exciting. It pushes us all to be better and it’s a great showing for Anne Arundel County which is exciting to see.”

The Bruins (17-2 overall) and the Wildcats (15-1) decided both previous matches in four games and players on both sides can’t wait to see their rivals again Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum.

“I’m excited, so excited,” said Arundel sophomore Zaria Ragler, whose team’s only loss was the county title match against the Bruins. “I feel like the second time we played them, it was a lot of nerves because it was counties and we all wanted to win counties again, but I feel like this time we know what they do — they tip deep, they hit deep — we’re ready for them.”

Broadneck junior Natalie Luscomb said, “They’re a great team. We had a great game against them… We become more resilient when we’re challenged by better teams and it’s just so much more fun. It reminds me of why I love the sport so much.”

Both teams were loving the sport Tuesday night.

The Bruins, who won the last of their six state titles in 2009, rolled past Dulaney, 25-10, 25-7, 25-9. Luscomb, a 6-foot-2 sophomore outside hitter, had 12 kills. Junior setter Makena Smith had 12 assists.

Emma Quandt has seven aces, including three on the opening run of the match. She served the first 13 points and the Lions (12-5) never got closer than within nine points.

“We knew that we had to come out strong and bring up the energy,” said Quandt. “I think we did that and I think that kind of shocked them and then we were just able to keep going with that.”

Coach Cary Lyon, who guided Dulaney to the last of its four state titles in 2013, said this team was the youngest he has ever coached.

With just one senior, libero Izzy Hodiste, the Lions returned to the state semifinals for the first time in four years. On the court Tuesday, however, they never settled down. They struggled to generate offense and finished with five kills and 25 attacking errors.

“There was definitely a lot of nerves coming into this game,” Lions junior Amber Medina said. “We’re a young, young team. There’s only two returners, so coming into this season, we didn’t really expect a lot out of it, but we worked hard and I think we did deserve to be here, but being here was a big experience for a lot of us.”

In the other semifinal, Arundel showed off its powerful balanced attack in a 25-17, 25-12, 28-30, 25-14 win over Churchill, from Montgomery County. The Wildcats high-flying trio combined for 33 kills while the entire Churchill team had 27.

Junior outside hitter Brooke Watts had 18 kills as well as three aces. Sophomore middle Ragler had 10 kills and had a hand in five point blocks. Aaliyah Griffin, a junior middle, had five kills.

Sophomore setters Ashley Barnes and Abby Niles combined for 36 assists. Libero Fiona Gonzalez Medina had 14 digs.

The Wildcats, who have never won a state title, appeared headed for a three-set sweep when they took a 12-5 lead in the third. However, three straight service errors helped the Bulldogs (15-3) climb back into the match.

“I think we just made a lot of careless mistakes,” Griffin said. “like things we wouldn’t usually do and we were just kind of laid back because we won the first two and then we were like, ‘Oh, like this’ll be easy. We got this one,’ so we kind of stepped back from what we usually do and it just kind of fell apart.”

The Bulldogs rallied to tie at 17 and the set was tied six more times as they finally outlasted the Wildcats on Madison Steffes’ set-winning kill. The Wildcats had three more service errors after the first tie including two on match point.

In the final game, the Wildcats didn’t falter after rolling up a 19-9 lead on Watts’ cross-court kill.

Although the Wildcats were more consistent and had more attacking options, the Bulldogs also showed a good back-court defense, a strong blocking game and had a solid attack led by sophomore Anna Lydia Siegenthaler’s 11 kills.

“I think that both teams tried to go at each other at the net,” said Churchill coach Cindy Hillard, whose program has been to the state semifinals just once before, in 1977. “Their setters did a real good job of if it was even close to being in system, they were going to get the ball to whichever hitter they wanted and the hitters were up and over. The hitters … were crushing the ball in places.”

As the Wildcats begin practice for Saturday’s state title match, Yuscavage said their would be one major point of emphasis — serving. They had 13 service errors in the match and can’t afford that against Broadneck.

“It’s hard to get momentum when you’re missing serves, so that was the biggest focal point that we talked about. Every team comes in and wants to win and that’s how it should be and we had to earn our points and that’s what the mental difference was,” said Yuscavage, whose team feel in the title game last season and in the semifinals two years ago.

In this corner: Arundel won the Anne Arundel County regular season title, and held the area No. 1 ranking for several weeks. The Wildcats seek their first state championship after title game losses in 2017, 2012 and 2011.