Dulaney High’s volleyball team admits its’ resume doesn’t compare to some of the best in the area. But, the Lions have been perfect and now they’re headed to College Park.
No. 1 Dulaney defeated fifth-ranked Howard in four sets (25-20, 25-18, 18-25 and 25-20) in the Class 4A North Region finals Friday evening in Baltimore County. Senior outside hitter Darla Svoboda led the way with 30 kills and Milan Amos finished with 13.
For the first since 2007, the Timonium school (18-0 overall) is in the state final four. Tuesday evening at 8, the Lions will play Prince George’s County’s High Point in a state 4A semifinal at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
After dropping its first set of the season, Dulaney overcame an 8-3 deficit in the fourth set to stop a Howard team that eliminated two-time defending state champ Sherwood from Montgomery County in Wednesday’s sectional finals. Outside of the season opener (vs. eventual 3A East finalist Mount Hebron) and the mid-season Arundel Tournament (finished second), Dulaney was hardly challenged.
“They’re [Howard] doing iron-versus-iron all year,” said Lions coach Cary Lyon. “…I was scared to death.”
“Eventhough we haven’t had a chance to really show that we can comeback, I think tonight we proved ourselves,” said Dulaney senior libero Melaney Nicholls. “We showed that we deserved to go to states even though we haven’t played competitive teams.”
The Baltimore County champ Lions raised their play against the Lions from Howard County, which played top 20 squads in Centennial, Glenelg, Mount Hebron, River Hill and Wilde Lake during the regular season. Dulaney overcame the 8-3 deficit in the fourth set, getting huge plays from Svoboda, Nicholls, Amos and senior CeCe Ukejianya.
Nicholls’ ace, which barely got over the net, gave the hosts a 13-11 lead before Svoboda pushed a shot that landed in the back left corner to keep the momentum at 16-13. Kills by Ukejianya and Amos, who extended her right arm on her 6-foot frame, put Dulaney in position at 23-18.
Howard closed to 23-20 after a kill by Allison Holland, but a serve error by Karen Smith put Dulaney at match point. Howard’s Sydney Biniak’s shot sailed out, clinching the region crown for Dulaney.
In a front of a huge student section, Dulaney won the first two sets and built an early 5-2 advantage in the third set. Howard, seeking its first state final four since 1980, rebounded, winning 18 of next 26 points, capped by Biniak’s kill to work its way back into contention.
The Ellicott City school carried the momentum into the early stages of the fourth set before Dulaney rallied. Howard coach Grant Scott said his squad didn’t match Dulaney’s effort.
“We were primed and we thought we were ready,” said Scott. “Dulaney was fantastic. They played way better than what we saw of them on tape.”
The Lions are proving looks can be deceiving and are in position to claim their first since 2000. Lyon, in his 10th season, said he’s taking his best team to Ritchie Coliseum.
“We’re better than OK,” said Lyon.