By Ron Cassie
Traditionally not a Howard County powerhouse, the Wildecats slayed one of the Goliaths Sept. 27 at River Hill and in dramatic, come-from-behind, five-game fashion.
Just 4-9 in county play each of the past two years, Wilde Lake dropped the opening game to the Hawks 25-15, then rebounded with 25-19 and 25-16 wins before falling once more in the fourth, 25-21.
But in the tie-breaking fifth match, everything was green and golden, as the 'Cats won going away, 15-5, kicking off a Wilde celebration. It was the first time in school history that Wilde Lake had beaten River Hill since that school opened its doors in 1996.
"All of our kids and their parents from the freshmen and junior varsity matches stayed - we won all three - so we had a big crowd that stayed for the whole match," third-year head coach Stacy Jett said later. "Everybody went crazy celebrating afterwards, jumping up and down and shouting."
Glenelg may be the two-time defending county champions, and Centennial may be off to a 5-0 start this year, but River Hill isn't typically far behind. In 2002 the Hawks went 11-3 in league play and last year they reached the 2A South region final. But on top of losses to Centennial and Atholton, which is 3-0 in the county thus far, River Hill is now 2-3.
One reason the Wildecats, who are now 3-1 in the county and 4-1 overall, started slowly against River Hill is that Jett sat two frontline starters for the first game. Both senior Katie Connaghan and junior Anna Jaller missed practice Friday, with legitimate excuses Jett said, but team rules dictated they view the inital game of the next match from the bench. Apparently, it only stirred Connaghan's and Jaller's desire to join their teammates.
"We just couldn't wait to get on the floor," Connaghan said. "We felt all along like this was a match we could win. We felt like that watching the first game."
Along with a steady stream of kills from Connaghan and 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter Jennifer O'Neil, Jett said the team got great play from senior setter Katie O'Hare, middle blocker Jaller, back Kristin Marucci and serving from Crystal D'Amore, who stepped up with Marucci unable to serve because of an injury.
"We're better than the teams we've had in the past," Jett said. "We have more enthusiasm, energy and talent. It was a surprise though, and the kids are high as they can be. I hope to improve. I hope they take the emotion from this and put it to work. It should help our drive and focus in practice this week. We have Glenelg Thursday (Sept. 30)."
E-mail Ron Cassie at email@example.com.