Dulaney High volleyball coach Cary Lyon has been hesitant to say his 2012 squad is his best. Not anymore.
The No. 4 Lions claimed the Baltimore County championship with a 25-16, 27-25, 25-16 sweep of No. 16 Hereford Thursday evening in Timonium. Junior outside hitter Darla Svoboda had 21 kills and two aces for Dulaney, and Jessica Starr finished with eight kills and two aces.
In claiming their first league championship since 2007, the Lions (15-0 overall) secured its perfect regular season since 2005. The 2005 squad won its first 18 games before losing to Montgomery County’s Gaithersburg in the Class 4A state finals at the University of Maryland.
It remains to be seen if the 2012 squad will end up in College Park next month, but they’ve continue to leave an impression on Lyon. The Lions opened the season with a five-set decision (was down 0-2) at then-No. 2 Mount Hebron, and won the Gator Invitational crown at Reservoir.
“I would say this team would beat that team,” said Lyon in his ninth season. “The only thing about that team  was there were no stars.”
The 2012 edition continues to pace by the trio of Svoboda, Starr and sophomore hitter Milan Amos (7 kills). Juniors Melaney Nicholls and Alexis Howatt each contributed three kills.
Svoboda, who sat out Wednesday’s practice with a sore knee, was the conduit Thursday. Up 15-14 in the first, her kill started a five point-run (including an ace by Nicholls). A kill by Starr, another Nicholls’ ace and Hereford error closed out the set for Dulaney.
The Lions trailed 22-20 in the second set, but pulled even at 23 after kills by Amos and Svoboda. Another Svoboda kill gave Dulaney the advantage at 26-25 before another Hereford (13-3) attempt landed in the net, giving the hosts a commanding 2-0 lead.
“We knew we needed to calm down, get a good pass and just kill it,” said Svoboda, whose team lost to Towson in the 2011 and 2010 league finals. “We just looked at each other and said ‘OK, this is it.’”
The Lions constructed a 10-4 lead in the third set and Hereford never really threatened. After rallying from an early deficit in the second set, Bulls coach Dave Schreiner said errors late cost it from tying the match.
“I thought we played as well as we’re capable of in the second set. We knew it was going to be difficult coming back 0-2,” said Schreiner, whose team lost to Lions during the regular season. “I thought we were a lot better from the first time we played them, but they’re much better. They just cover the floor well. You don’t get anything for free.”
The Lions will be one of the top two seeds in the Class 4A North Region playoffs along with two-time reigning state champ Sherwood from Montgomery County. Dulaney last reached the state Final Four in 2007.
“I knew coming into the season each player was good, but how are we going to play as a team,” said Starr, a senior captain. “We’ve come together like sisters, like a family and that’s what pushes us.”