Wolverines fall to Clear Spring, but leave Ritchie full of pride and hope

by Pat O’Malley

Veteran coach Eric Jett savored his 18th volleyball team at Western Tech High that had just played in its’ first ever state final.

“It’s been a dream season,” said Jett after his Wolverines dropped a 3-0 decision to Clear Spring of Washington County which was winning its third state championship, the first since 1994 in the Class 1A State final at Ritchie Coliseum.

“It was our goal to get here and we’re already getting ready for next year.”

The only thing that could have satisfied coach Jett more would have been a victory Tuesday night in the 1A final but his girls made him proud. They had been to their first state semifinals in 2011 and 2017 and this year got to the big show. The Baltimore County school that is located between Catonsville and Arbutus is definitely making progress and after their first final the Wolverines (17-3) realize they have to learn how to sustain pressure and finish.

Western Tech lost in three sets by 25-14, 25-15 and 25-13 after starting each set with the first point and 1-0 leads. In the first set Tech pushed it to 4-1 and 7-3 before falling off to the Vallery Dean and Olivia Kirby-led Blazers.

In set two the Wolverines got up 2-1 before being tied and eventually never holding another lead as the Blazers cruised to a 10-point victory by 25-15. Again in the third set, Western started 1-0, led by 4-1 before being tied at 4 and 8. Clear Spring grabbed the lead at 9-8 and went on to seal the verdict at 25-13.

A trio of juniors in MB Sheri Adewumi and hitters Kieran Ray and Rachael Durham combined for 14 kills to keep the Wolverines competitive and within distance of ringing up a “W.”

Blazer junior hitters Dean and Kirby had eight kills each while sophomore Kylee McKenrick had four kills and senior setter Annemarie Kinman dished off 21 assists for the Blazers who fought off early season injuries and a 3-6 start to reel off 10 consecutive wins including the 1A state final finishing 15-7 overall.

“At one point we were down to six players, but we got everybody healthy and played a tough schedule which really helped us,” said Blazers’ third-year coach Jessica Custer, who did a great job singing the pre-match National Anthem with long time friend Lance Long. “We played under pressure and had to get through Smithsburg (3-2) and Perryville (3-0) to win our region. When you get through Smithsburg (13 state titles in 16 appearances, state titles second most in Maryland history) that is a feat.”

Sure is, and the coach was told they would survive the long road to Ritchie before the season began.

“We told our coach that we could do it this year and take the title because we are a giant family,” said Kirby.

As for the tough schedule, the Blazers lost their first match of the season by 3-0 to Smithsburg, and  avenged it in the region. Clear Spring also lost 3-0 to eventual 2A state champion Williamsport and 3-1 to 4A state finalist Urbana.

The 2019 returning Wolverines left the arena full of optimism and incentive to get back to Ritchie and to continue the rise of Western.

at Ritchie Coliseum, University of Maryland
CLEAR SPRING (15-7) defeated WESTERN TECH (17-3), 3-0
SET SCORES: 25-14, 25-15 and 25-13