The volleyball talent in Maryland is so rich and diffused that even a skilled and balanced team like Severna Park is taking some lumps to start 2018.
At 2-4 through six matches, the Falcons’ record alone doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but there is reason for optimism. Severna Park has wins over Centennial and Notre Dame Prep to go with close losses to Arundel, Atholton, Dulaney and Howard — all contenders for region titles this fall.
“We could have won any of our matches,” said head coach Tim Dunbar following the Falcons’ latest close defeat, a 25-20, 22-25, 20-25, 21-25 loss to visiting Howard on September 25. “You play strong teams, and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Strength of schedule pays long-term dividends, and the experience gained over a season of stiff competition should serve the Falcons well come playoff time.
Against Howard, Severna Park showed flashes of solid play and hung with the Lions throughout. The superb passing of sophomore Siena DeCicco, who tallied 37 assists, allowed hitters Skyler Sale (15 kills), Georgia Marriner (seven), Ally Fletcher (six) and Chloe Campbell (five), Emily Krasic (two) and Grace Mills (two) to rack up points and keep pressure on the Lions. Defensively, Krasic (21 digs), Yasmeen Mahmud (13 digs) and Rachel Holly (five) complemented the blocking of Marriner and Fletcher.
DeCicco was also perfect serving and had eight aces and a handful of points on clever tips, but the Falcons, who won the first set and were neck-and-neck with the Lions in both the second and third sets, couldn’t maintain an early lead in the fourth set long enough to turn the momentum of the match.
“We didn’t make adjustments in the game,” said Dunbar. “They just exploited things we were doing poorly. Errors at inopportune times, serving it into the net in spots — those are plays we should be making on a regular basis. Plus, [Howard] was just a human backboard, they just keep bringing the ball back to us. Lots of things that would normally be kills for us, they were digging it up and turning it into offense.”
Still, the Falcons can draw encouragement from the fact that they were temporarily without a pair of hitters in senior Madi Mason and freshman Maggie Sale, both “big contributors,” according to Dunbar.
Marriner, a senior, believes the team’s strengths and depth will eventually start turning match outcomes.
“We have really strong hitters,” said Marriner. “If we’re passing really well, we get a good set, and we just crush it. It’s hard to defend, which helps us get on a good run.”
Can the Falcons pull off a win when it matters against Arundel, Broadneck or South River?
“We definitely have confidence,” said DeCicco.
The measuring-stick loss to Arundel and the spectre of the Bruins and Seahawks looming in early October are incentives to stay on the grind.
“Arundel, we had our opportunities, and they were close matches,” said Dunbar. “[Broadneck and South River] are strong. I just think we’ve really got a lot of work to do. You can’t take anybody lightly.”