Arundel sweeps VSN Volleyball honors with Etheredge and Yuscavage
by Pat O’Malley
After arguably its finest season, Arundel High has locked down Varsity Sports Network’s volleyball awards for 2017.
Alicia Etheredge shattered several school records while leading the Wildcats to the Class 4A state final and area top-ranking. The senior setter is Player of the Year.
Under the guidance of Ashley Yuscavage, Arundel captured the Anne Arundel County championship and a second consecutive trip to the 4A state semifinals. The veteran leader is Coach of the Year.
See below for our award profiles on each.
2017 VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Teammate first of all – that’s No. 1 ranked Arundel’s senior setter, Alicia Eldredge, the 2017 Varsity Sports Network Volleyball Player of the Year.
“Alicia’s desire to sacrifice herself to make big plays pushed us along at so many different points,” said Wildcats coach Ashley Yuscavage, VSN’s Coach of the Year.
Eldredge capped a brilliant four-year career at the Gambrills school, leading the Cats’ to a 19-0 record going into the Class 4A state final at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum in College Park. The banner season ended on a sad note as Arundel lost a 3-1 decision to Northwest of Montgomery County (19-0) which reeled off its third consecutive 4A state title in a 58-1 run over the last three years.
Disappointed of course, in the final result, but not forgetful of the season and her teammates, Eldredge put things in perspective afterwards in the interview room inside Ritchie.
“We had a great season and I will never forget the way we bonded as a team,” Eldredge said. “We worked really hard to get here (state championship) and supported each other all the way.”
She took the underclassmen under her wings and treated them as she treated her senior mates. Freshman sensation Brooke Watts and junior standout Mackenzie Meehan especially appreciated the way Eldredge tried to help everyone succeed physically and mentally.
The 5-foot-9 Eldredge, who will continue playing volleyball at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, finished her senior season at Arundel with 442 assists, 172 digs, 119 kills and 65 aces, not to mention a load of winning intangibles.
“Alicia’s leadership and drive were integral in our success over the last four years (60-14) and this season specifically,” said Yuscavage. “We would not have been where we were as a team or program without her.”
She came up big in the “big” matches, always the contributor in numbers and intangibles that allowed her to set up her teammates to succeed in tough situations. No. 4 ranked South River went 16-4 overall, three of the losses to Eldredge and company.
In a 3-2 regular season victory over South River, Eldredge had 30 assists, seven kills and 13 digs and in the Anne Arundel County championship win (3-1) over the Seahawks, she posted 13 assists, seven kills and 13 digs. The ensuing third match in the Class 4A East region final, Eldredge inspired a 3-1 victory with 42 assists, four kills and three aces.
Also during the regular season, Eldredge led the Cats to sweeps over No. 5 Howard and then-No. 1 and defending 3A state champ Atholton (16-2, No. 3 in final VSN Top 20). In the state title match against Northwest, Eldredge had a match high 37 asssists to go with 10 digs.
Eldredge set school career records for assists (1, 333), aces (216) and digs (625) and powered 347 kills mostly as a prominent 3-year starter. Her play was incredibly consistent throughout the season and she will be missed as she graduates to the next level at Edinboro, where its setter is graduating.
“I will miss her desire to be her best,” said Yuscavage, who expects Eldredge to continue her consistent winning ways at Edinboro. “She is a vocal, focused leader who expected so much from her teammates and even more from herself. That type of player is hard to come by.”
2017 VOLLEYBALL COACH OF THE YEAR
Ashley Yuscavage, who is a master at blending talent and personalities into championship teams, is the Varsity Sports Network Coach of the Year for 2017. Yuscavage led the top-ranked Arundel Wildcats to a 19-1 record, losing only the last match of the season to Montgomery County’s Northwest in four sets in the Class 4A state final at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
Yuscavage, who is from western Pennsylvania and played volleyball at Dickinson College before coming to Maryland to teach English at Arundel, guided the Wildcats to the Anne Arundel County and 4A East Region championships and the championship of their own Arundel Tournament compiling a perfect 19-0 record before losing the state title match for the third time in her 11 years as Arundel coach. It was her team’s third final four, the second in a row, in her tenure.
Along the way, the Wildcats knocked off five teams ranked in the final VSN Volleyball Top 20, including three over No. 4 South River and another three teams ranked at one time during the season. The Wildcats defeated 4 of the 5 ranked teams in sweeps – No. 3 Atholton (16-2, 3A state semifinalist), No. 5 Howard (16-4, 4A North region finaliat), ninth-ranked Towson (16-3, 3A state semifinalist) and No. 14 St. Paul’s School (9-6, IAAM A Conference finalist).
Arundel was 3-0 against teams from the highly competitive Howard County league including Atholton, Howard and Mount Hebron. The Wildcats started the season ranked No. 2 behind defending 3A state champion Atholton, VSN No. 1 team at the end of the 2016 campaign, but took over the top spot in week 5 with an early October victory over the Raiders. Atholton would lose only one other match, to eventual state champion Northern-Calvert in 3A state semifinals.
“When I think about this team, I will remember that it was a team where every single person contributed,” said Yuscavage. “It wasn’t a team that was based on one player. It was a team where every player had a role. I will also remember that we had so many players willing to be leaders in different ways.”
That’s where Yuscavage and her staff of Amanda Coursey, Brittany Orr and Ashley Felton came in. Together they molded a very talented group that included all classes – seniors (6), juniors (2), sophomores (3) and freshmen (4) – into a state championship caliber squad. It was a team that struggled a bit with chemistry and roles in the early beginning, but started coming around after their sixth win of the season over Atholton.
Three matches later, they took a hard-fought battle over a very good South River team by 3-2 and they were on the way to the state final. There may have been only one better team in the state other than Arundel and that was Northwest. The Jaguars came into Ritchie Coliseum with a perfect record as did Arundel and they left 19-0 with their 28th consecutive win for their third consecutive 4A state crown and a gaudy 58-1 log over the three years.
Arundel had nothing to be ashamed of because in the words of the Northwest coach Stefanie Blake, Arundel “gave us the toughest state championship match we have had.” Arundel took the first set by 26-24 before losing 25-19, 25-16 and 25-11. Northwest had lost only three other sets during the season – both in their 4A North Region playoff run against Montgomery County foes Thomas Wootton (3-2) and Winston Churchill (3-1). The Jaguars won their 16 other matches in a 3-0 sweep.
“I don’t know if this team has been our best team because we have had very talented teams in the past, but this team was certainly very enjoyable to coach,” said Yuscavage. “Their willingness to learn and work hard made them so much fun to coach.”
Some might say that the only thing wrong with coach Yuscavage is that she is – get ready for this – a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.