With the two top positions in the area’s volleyball hierarchy currently belonging to Howard County foes River Hill and Centennial, some might assume the chase for the league crown is a two-horse race.
Mount Hebron has something to say about that.
The Vikings swept Marriotts Ridge, 25-23, 25-17 and 25-15, Monday evening in Marriottsville. Mount Hebron (2-0 overall), ranked No. 9 in the latest VSN’s Top 20, posted its second sweep to start Howard play.
“This was a good solid win and we got better every game,” said Mount Hebron coach Mike Moynihan. All 14 girls played which was my goal.”
“We didn’t know what to expect from Marriotts Ridge, so we were like play your best every point,” said Viking senior setter Maddy Birus. “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing on their side, play our game on our side.”
Mount Hebron methodically imposed its will, as well as its strong hitting, against the Mustangs. The Vikings avenged a three-game sweep last fall.
Tied at 20 in the opening game, Mount Hebron got kills from Paige Coolahan and senior Holly Hynson to take a two-point advantage. Marriotts Ridge pulled even at 23, but the Vikings claimed the closing two points as the hosts weren’t able to cleanly handle Birus’s serve.
Mount Hebron put together a seven-point run, including kills by Birus and Coolahan, turning a terse 17-16 advantage into 24-16. The Mustangs couldn’t handle a shot by Hynson, sealing the second game. It was much the same in the final set.
The Vikings raced out to a 10-5 lead before expanding it to 21-13 after four unanswered points. The Mustangs were unable to return a Birus serve, completing the sweep.
“If we lost that first game, they would’ve had the momentum,” said Moynihan. “We didn’t play great, but we played tough. Marriotts Ridge is a really scrappy defensive team and couldn’t get the ball down on them.”
Moniyhan said the front line of Tinuke Ibitola, Katie Huston, Hyson and Coolahan were the driving force for the Vikings, who return a solid veteran nucleus including nine seniors.
“This group epitomizes what team is,” said Moynihan, in his ninth season at the Ellicott City school. “Whether they’re on the bench, whether on the court, they’re focus on one goal: winning. That’s really rare.”
“Mount Hebron has a very strong offense, very powerful and very poised,” said Marriotts Ridge coach Amanda Olson. “We hung with them, they had a stronger offense and we gave too many opportunities with free balls.”
Mount Hebron hosts No. 5 and reigning UCBAC champion Fallston Wednesday before returning to Howard County play. The Vikings expect to have their say in the chase for the league crown.
“We’re not a darkhorse, but we’re in the race,” said Moniyan. . River Hill has great offense and defense, Centennial is always going to be awesome. It’s not a two-horse race this year, I think we’re going to run.”