No. 1 Atholton wins 3A state volleyball crown with impressive effort against No. 8 Bel Air (VIDEO HERE!)

McKenna Reiswig of Bel Air (right) attempts to tip a shot past Atholton’s Chanelle Smith in the Class 3A volleyball state title match Tuesday night at the University of Maryland.

by Pat O’Malley

Two is the number and 2nd is the word for the focused and fun-loving top-ranked Atholton High Raiders of veteran coach Larry Schofield – a team to remember and cherish for how they accomplished the ultimate and became the Sweet Carolines of Maryland high school volleyball.

Tuesday evening at Ritchie Coliseum in College Park, Atholton captured its second state championship in Class 3A in three years and sixth overall for the Columbia school by 25-16, 25-16 and 25-15 over No. 8 Bel Air as Schofield became the first coach to win state titles at two different schools.

Schofield, a longtime assistant to Centennial coach Mike Bossom while the latter was ringing up a state record eight state titles, succeeded Bossom when he took a college job and led the Eagles to the 2008 state championship.

“This team set a goal for a triple crown (county, region and state titles) this year with Nov. 20 (3A state final) always in our view,” said Schofield, who moved onto Atholton to assist Robert Moy four years ago and was part of the Moy-coached 2016 state champion and the 2017 state semifinalist (lost 3-1 to eventual state champion Northern-Calvert).

Moy stepped down after 2017 turning the reins over to Schofield and assisted the latter this season and was there on the bench Tuesday night during the triumph over Bel Air by the 19-0 Raiders.

“This was a team that played smart and hard and had a lot of fun,” added Schofield.

For those who got to see this 2018 Atholton edition, it was a team to behold and never forget because they masterfully combined focus and fun in extraordinary fashion. It was a high school team that had it all and didn’t mind showing the world how much they enjoyed playing together and frequently dancing and engaging in a whole lot of hugging.

And it was a team like the 2016 state champs that had an outstanding outside hitter and leader by the name of Lisa Zoch. Zoch really stepped up again, this time against a game and tough Bobcat (19-3) squad of Harford County and the UCBAC.

“We feed off each others’ energy and it’s positivity that everyone really brought tonight,” said the athletic 6-foot Zoch, who also a big hitter in the classroom with her gaudy 4.5 GPA and who says she will decide soon on where she will go to college.

Zoch, who had 16 kills in the Raiders’ 3-1 victory over No. 5 Westminster in the 3A semis, fired in a match-highs of 14 kills and had 14 digs teaming up with sophomore star outside hitter Ryan Rorls who had 12 kills and 9 digs in the back row. The Zoch-Rorls duo ignited the Raiders’ power attack from back to front and over the net.

“They had a strong defense, were very quick and kept the pressure on us,” said Bel Air’s third-year head coach Elizabeth McCourt, who led the Bobcats to their first state final after five state semifinal berths, the last in 2013. “They picked up everything we were putting over and were so strong attacking.

“They were definitely the best team we played this season.”

The Raiders left no doubt how good they were in 2018 going wire-to-wire as VSN’S No. 1 team as they came out to begin the match in their patented “here we are and now try to stop us.”

Atholton raced out 11-5 in the first set and kept boosting their lead until it was up to 20-13 and eventually 25-16 as Zoch and Rorls had five kills each and 6-2 junior Chanelle Smith went up and over for a kill that nearly put a hole in the floor.

Smith and senior hitter Bianca Smalls had five and four kills each.

Senior setters Sabrina Lagomarsino (led the trio with 18 assists) and Hannah Duncan and hard-working libero Elise Park went on a feeding frenzy and combined for 35 assists in the three sets. It helped hold off junior MB McKenna Reiswig and outside hitters, senior Megan Hoy and sophomore Brooke Myers, who combined for 15 kills. The 6-foot-3 Reiswig led with 7 of the 15.

The Bel Air hitters attacked very well and got off some big hits throughout, but the Raiders put up a wall that couldn’t be penetrated and at times frustrated the Bobcats but not to the point of surrender. It was evident that had Bel Air played anybody but Atholton and hit the way they did, the Bobcats would have copped their first state title.

“I feel like we were a lawn mower and just plowed through them,” said Park, a fireball who was all over the floor diving at balls and posting 10 digs.

Hoy said playing a team like Atholton “made it more fun and challenging.”

Bel Air got off to a 4-1 lead in the second set, but soon the Raiders took a 6-5 lead on a nifty kill by Smalls and never looked back winning by the identical 25-16 score posted in the first set. Smith pounded another one into the floor for the 22nd point that thank goodness didn’t hit anybody.

In the last set the Bobcats took a 1-0 lead on a return error by the Raiders, but Zoch’s first of five kills in the clincher tied it at one and a kill by Jessica Humphries gave the champs the lead at 2-1. Atholton never relinquished the lead and cruised to a 10-point win by 25-15. Zoch and Rorls closed it out with power kills followed by exclamation points.

Bel Air coach McCourt summed it up with, “It was an amazing journey.”

Ditto for the Sweet Carolines of Columbia – bah, bah, bah!!!

MPSSAA Class 3A State Final
at Ritchie Coliseum, University of Maryland
No. 1 Atholton (19-0) defeated No. 8 Bel Air (19-3), 3-0 (25-16, 25-16 and 25-15)