No. 1 Atholton remains undefeated with tough sweep of Glenelg; Smith and Zoch combine for 14 kills
by Pat O’Malley
It’s rare to say that a team that wins a volleyball match by 3-0 “survived,” but, in a meeting of two undefeated teams Tuesday in Columbia, host and top-ranked Atholton High did so against No. 6 Glenelg.
The Raiders (9-0 overall) got all they could handle with Glenelg (8-1) and the victors’ typical steady, always under control play was never more evident as they posted a 25-20, 25-17 and 25-22 three-set sweep. The visiting Gladiators, a projected Class 2A state title contender, were in all three sets with a chance to win each in front of a raucous crowd that included many members of the undefeated Glenelg football team cheering for their classmates.
Through its nine-game winning streak, Atholton has lost only two sets this season – both coming in a 3-2 triumph over No. 3 ranked Arundel on Sept. 25.
“Glenelg has a lot of smart hitters and we prepared well for them,” said senior standout and returning Howard County Player of the Year, Lisa Zoch, who boasts a 4.54 GPA, but hasn’t settled on what college she will take her talents to next year. “We definitely showed up and maintained our energy. Early in the season, our consistency wasn’t there, but we have battled back to get there.”
Zoch had seven kills and 15 digs, while 6-foot-1 junior hitter Chanelle Smith also had seven kills to go with five blocks. Sophomore Ryan Rorls chipped in five kills and nine digs to lead Atholton.
“I thought Ryan’s serving was a difference maker for us,” said Atholton coach Larry Schofield, who said his team went through the pains of practicing serve/receive for an hour and a half on Monday to get ready for Glenelg. “We really pushed hard in practice and that (specific part of the game) is not easy to practice.”
Obviously, it paid off as the Raiders came away with the positive over the inspired effort by the Gladiators and their junior 5-foot-2 bundle of energy, hitter Maddie Myers.
Myers was on fire and seemed to be everywhere on the court as she posted a match high 12 kills, had two aces and 12 digs and according to coach Schofield, “If Maddie was 5-8, she would be unstoppable.”
Glenelg sixth-year coach Jason Monjes said of the much taller Raiders, “What beat us was that we didn’t handle transition well. We were worried about their size and couldn’t get big runs on them. Our ball control was down.”
There were 14 ties in the first set with the scoring going back-and-forth as was the chanting between the two schools’ fans throughout. The Gladiators could not maintain a couple of 5-point leads in the second game before a serving ace by sophomore Ryan Roris and a return error capped a 5-0 run by the Raiders to knot the score at 14.
A subsequent 11-3 advantage the rest of the way enabled Atholton to post the 25-17 set win despite Myers’ inspired play.
“We have a lot of fight in us and overall we played good against a really good team,” said Myers.
The Raiders completed the sweep, withstanding a furious rally by the Gladiators. Sparked by the power of Roris, Zoch, Smith and juniors Jessica Humphries and Wande Sogbesan around the net, Atholton built a commanding 14-5 lead.
Glenelg pecked away, tying it up at 22 on back-to-back kills by senior Madelyn Southern and junior Haley Rumsey. Smith then pulverized one for an Atholton lead by 23-22. Zoch followed and a hitting error by Glenelg ended it.
“It’s frustrating because a lot of people don’t think of us being one of the top teams,” said Myers.
Schofield is not one of them.
“They came in strong, are a very good team, but we were able to keep them in check,” said Schofield.
Pictured above: Atholton’s Wande Sogbesan (No. 8 in white) rises above the court during action in the Raiders’ Howard County showdown with Glenelg.