With five straight losses to end the regular season, Marriotts Ridge High’s volleyball team didn’t have momentum in its favor heading into the state playoffs.

Now, the No. 16 Mustangs are a win away from a state championship. The Marriottsville school swept Eastern Tech, 25-18, 26-24 and 25-19, in a Class 2A semifinal at the University of Maryland’s Richie Coliseum Thursday evening. 

Samatha Johnson led Marriotts Ridge (11-7) with seven kills and Robin Laux and Nancy Schwartz each added six. Junior middle hitter Alexis Peay had eight kills for Eastern Tech (16-3), and junior Danielle Cockey posted seven kills and 13 digs.

Monday evening at Ritchie Coliseum, Marriotts Ridge will play No. 5 Fallston for the state title. Fallston swept Poolesville in the other state semifinal Thursday evening.

Last year, Marriotts Ridge lost to Francis Scott Key in the state semifinals. The Mustangs’ path back to the state tournament has been nothing short of exhilarating going five sets the prior two matches including a 0-2 deficit at Calvert in the regional finals last Friday.

They say surviving the tough Howard County league which includes No. 1 Centennial (plays Towson for the 3A state title Friday evening), No. 3 River Hill, Reservoir and Mount Hebron, prepared for them the postseason.

“It’s definitely hard,” said Marriotts Ridge senior setter Meredith Krzys. “When we beat Reservoir in five, that was the turning point in our season. We realized our full potential and saw that we can be down and comeback.”

“There’s been multiple times throughout the season that we’ve been down either a game or multiple points in individual sets,” said Mustangs coach Amanda Olson. “I have to give them credit for not rolling over, they really do push back and play hard. I don’t know how they do it sometimes.”

The Mustangs found theirselves in a 10-1 hole in the first set Thursday, but fought back behind the strong serving by Beth Wehr and Shannon Lucas. Lucas’ ace gave Marriotts Ridge its first lead at 13-12.

The lead grew to 20-14 after a double touch violation on the Mavericks. A block kill by Johnson closed out the opening set.

“I think they figured out our weaknesses, hit the ball in certain places and we weren’t ready for it,” said Eastern Tech coach Sarah Nugent. “There were some confusion, but I told them in the second game anything can happen.”

In the second set, Eastern Tech led 19-16 after a kill by Peay, only to see Marriotts Ridge pull even at 22. The teams traded serve errors until the Mustangs gained the advantage at 25-24. The Mavericks sent an attempt into the net, clinching the set for a 2-0 Marriotts Ridge advantage.

alexis peay, samatha johnson, robin lauxEastern Tech appeared ready to surrender, falling behind 7-2 in set three, but fought its way even at 16. The Mustangs responded with six straight, capped by a kill from Schwartz and an ace by Wehr to put them on the way to the state title game.

For the Mavericks, it was another state semifinal heartache. The Baltimore County school has lost in the semifinal round the last three seasons, but the Mavericks were tenacious until the end Thursday.

“We came in to play volleyball,” said Cockey. “We didn’t care about the other stuff.”

“They hustled on defense and served really strong,” said Olson. “We had some trouble handling their deep serves. They fought all the way through the match.”

The Mustangs know they’ll have a battle on their hands with UCBAC champ Fallston which hasn’t lost a set in the tournament. Marriotts Ridge is looking to capture its first girls’ state championship.

“It’s an amazing feeling to get to this point. We’re going to states on Monday,” said Lucas, a senior. “I’m hoping we can play our hearts out.”