Third time's a charm for Magruder volleyball
With 250 Magruder volleyball fans ready to erupt Friday night, junior middle hitter Brittany Skrutski sent the crowd into a frenzy after her kill shot hit the floor to send the Colonels to a 25-23, 25-20, 25-20 victory over visiting Blake in the Class 4A West Region final.
"We played a darn good team tonight," said Magruder head coach Scott Zanni. "It was a slugfest. The first game I thought we were a little jittery, but after that we played our hearts out. ... It was a great final."
The win gave Magruder its first regional title since 2004, despite being the No. 1 seed for the past three seasons. The Colonels were also able to avenge last year's regional semifinal loss to the Bengals.
"Any year you win, it feels good," said Zanni. "This is one of the toughest regions to win of any of the regions in the state of Maryland. Every year there are five or six good teams that have a shot. Any year you can win this region it's a heck of an accomplishment."
The match started off with both teams flying around. Blake was able to build an 8-3 lead, but a Magruder timeout shifted momentum. The Colonels rallied to within one, 11-10, and eventually seized the lead at 17-16 after a Molly Hirrlinger kill.
The Bengals would take the lead again at 23-22, but two hitting errors and an ace by Carly Miller gave Magruder the first game.
With the Colonels leading 7-5 in game two, a kill by senior Corri Smoot gave Magruder a 3-point lead. Junior outside hitter Michelle Fowle, who has recovered from a strained back and mononucleosis, keyed a 3-point run with her serving that extended the Magruder lead to six, 11-5.
"It's awesome," said Fowle being back on the court. "[My teammates] are very supportive of everything. Even though I was messing up some, everyone was right there supporting me. It was hard enough missing two weeks. It was good to be back out in games contributing."
Leading just 20-19 in the third game after Fowle's kill shot was blocked, the Colonels responded by winning five of the final six points. Fowle responded to the block with a successful kill on the ensuing point.
The Bengals finished the season with a 15-2 record, the best in school history.
"Everybody except for one team ends in a loss, so it happens," said Blake head coach Leigh Tinsley. "We needed to serve a little tougher. They were a little tentative on the service. … That was where the nerves were hitting."
Magruder will face the winner of the Dulaney-Thomas Johnson match at Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland on Thursday at 6 p.m.
"They get to go play down at the University of Maryland," said Zanni. "That's what you work all year for, but our focus is to play volleyball. I told the kids that we want to enjoy the moment and there are a lot of special things that go with that, but the focus is on volleyball. I think our kids are mature enough that we will do that."