No. 4 Mount de Sales sweep St. Paul’s for IAAM A volleyball title repeat; Catholic and Indian Creek claim first title (VIDEO HERE!)


by Nelson Coffin

The names have changed the last several years for Mount de Sales Academy volleyball, including on the sidelines. But one thing is for sure: the Sailors have championship DNA.
The fourth-ranked Sailors won their second straight IAAM A Conference crown, sweeping 14th-ranked St. Paul’s School in the finale at Goucher College Saturday night. Indian Creek School and Catholic reached championship status for the first time.
The first time was a colossal success for Indian Creek, which capped the program’s first season with a three-game sweep (30-28, 25-23, 25-20) of Friends School in the C final. Freshman outside hitter Laila Ivey posted 20 kills.
“Our goal is to fight to the end,” said Indian Creek senior left back Megan Kuhns, one of only two seniors on the squad. “I’ve never been more proud of my team.”
The moment appeared too big for the Crownsville school (10-1 overall) as Friends was a point away at 24-14 from claiming the first set. The Eagles ran off 11 straight points to get back in the match, and a kill from senior middle back hitter Alexandra Walls completed the improbable comeback.
Indian Creek and the Quakers (11-5) battled through five lead changes in the second set, but Indian Creek prevailed as Jalen Dickinson’s block clinched it. The Anne Arundel County school didn’t look back after claiming the first seven points in the third set.
Kuhns and Walls were the only seniors on the landmark Indian Creek squad that won its  debut match (defeated Beth Tfiloh), and claimed its final eight matches. The Eagles didn’t lose a set in the postseason.


Despite losing to St. Mary’s nearly two weeks ago, Catholic was confident and loose for the rematch in the B final Saturday. The Cubs ruined the Saints’ bid for a perfect league campaign with a 25-20, 25-21, 25-20 sweep.

“We were confident but not cocky,” said Catholic senior hitter Olivia Adams. “We knew what we were doing, but we also knew that they could turn the tables on us. We never got complacent.”
Adams along with junior setter Carla Golubev and junior left side hitter Madison Liggett frustrated the Annapolis school, seeking its first title. Tied at 15 in the opening set, Catholic ceased command as Adams clinched the set with a kill.
The Baltimore City school pulled away late in the second set behind three kills from Adams. St. Mary’s grabbed the early lead in the third set, but Catholic didn’t relent as another Adams kill and Saint error clinched victory.
“We just weren’t ready for what Catholic brought,” said St. Mary’s coach Rebekah Kruder, only dropped two sets in league play (including playoffs) entering Saturday’s finale. “They brought their ‘A’ game today.”
The Saints (15-3) defeated Catholic, 3-1, Oct. 16. Cubs coach Nicole Niedzwicki said her team  prepared intensely for the rematch.
“I think that maybe St. Mary’s came in expecting to win,” she said. “But we stepped up to the challenge.”


After bowing to St. Paul’s in five sets last week, Mount de Sales made amends with a 25-20, 26-24, 25-20 sweep for the repeat and program’s sixth title overall.

Just like last year, the Sailors’ talented and tall sophomore standouts on the front row, middle blocker Chidinma Onukwugha and outside hitter Mary Grace Goyena, led the way with 10 and nine kills, respectively.
Onukwugha also had four blocks and a sparkling .318 hitting percentage.
Mount de Sales (14-3) had to rally in each set, including in the first set on a 17-7 run to surge ahead, 23-19, that was bookended on blocks by Onukwugha and Goyena.
Likewise in the middle set, the Gators (15-4) seemingly had a commanding 20-14 advantage after a tip by junior outside hitter Jalen Dickerson before a big comeback by the Sailors drew them even at 21-21.
Twice St. Paul’s inched ahead only to be caught at 22-22 and 24-24 on kills by Onukwugha and Goyena.
The Sailors finally prevailed on two mistakes by the Gators to take the set.
St. Paul’s never took a big lead in the final set, although it still had a 19-18 lead until senior opposite hitter/middle blocker Sydney Chooquan’s kill tied it and senior middle blocker Lauren Gartrell’s kill put the Sailors ahead for good.
With only two seniors (middle hitter Ava Turner and defensive specialist Camy Barringer), St. Paul’s coach Kelly Wilkinson said her team exceeded expectations.
“We’re still really young,” said Wilkinson, who has 14 letter winners set to return in 2019. “If you had told me before the season we’d be 15-4, I would have taken it.”
In last year’s final, Mount de Sales rallied from 2-0 deficit to complete a perfect run through league play. The road was different this year under first-year Pat Dayton, a former St. Paul’s assistant who replaced Tuan Nguyen.
The end was familiar for the Catonsville school, which six IAAM A titles over the past decade have come under four different coaches (Kenny Mills, 2008; Monica Owensby, 2009, 2010 and 2015)
“I was just lucky to come to Mount de Sales,” Dayton said. “All the pieces were there with seven seniors — they made things easy. We knew we had the talent. They just had to bring it every game.”