What are the best high school teams in Frederick this fall?
Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ll likely have to wait until next spring to find out. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association postponed fall and winter sports until after the first semester, which ends in January, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
So to help fill the void, The Frederick News-Post thought it would be fun to ask readers to pick the best Frederick County high school teams of all-time in each sport.
Each week, we’ll feature a sport and list contenders from years past in that sport. Readers can visit www.fredericknewspost.com to vote for the team they think is best. We’ll do this for all sports, fall, winter and spring.
Each Thursday, when we list candidates for another sport, we’ll reveal the team from the previous week’s sport that got the most votes.
This week’s sport: Volleyball. May the best team win.
1995 Thomas Johnson Patriots
Record: 18-1, Class 3A state finalist
This was the first Frederick County team to qualify for the MPSSAA state championship, a group of pioneers who set the stage for a program that quickly became a perennial power.
Coached by Sue Newton, the Patriots took an undefeated record into the Class 3A state final, but they couldn’t get past Mount Hebron, a power that won four state titles between 1990 and 1995, losing 17-15, 15-2, 15-2.
Before that match, the Patriots had dominated pretty much all season, routinely winning in three sets. They were only pushed to five sets once all season, when they beat North Carroll during the regular season. Their final two postseason wins — against North Carroll in the regional final and Fallston in the state semis — were three-set wins.
The 1995 Patriots were powered by senior middle hitter Janie Marshall (1995 Frederick News-Post Player of the Year) and fellow all-area first-teamers Judy Whims (a senior outside hitter) and Kristy Fisher (a junior setter) as well as Katie Korreck and Sara Combs.
This was the first of nine trips to the state tournament for TJ, more than any other county program. In fact, the Patriots returned to the state championship match the following season despite losing Marshall and Whims to graduation.
After seeing the 1995 Patriots fall just a win shy of winning a state title and getting another crack at it in 1996, it seemed like only a matter of time before the first Frederick County volleyball team won a state crown. But it would be nearly two decades before that breakthrough occurred.
1998 Thomas Johnson Patriots
Record: 16-4, Class 3A state finalist
The 1998 Patriots reached the state championship match for the third time in four seasons, but this was the program’s first such trip under head coach Jim Dorsch, whose name will appear on this list several more times.
Early in the season, the Patriots didn’t seem destined to be the type of team that would end up on a list like this 22 years later. But as the 1998 season progressed, TJ’s moxie emerged.
After getting off to a 3-3 start, the Patriots won 13 straight — including wins over each team they lost to — before losing 15-4, 15-10, 16-14 to unbeaten Calvert in the state championship match. And every one of their postseason wins came without the services of standout Ellyse Byrd. Byrd, TJ’s blocks leader and a Frederick News-Post All-Area first-team pick, suffered a season-ending injury that year in the Frederick County Tournament (which TJ won).
But Jen Wilson helped fill the void, and the Patriots had several other key performers help extend their run to the final.
Other all-area first-teamers for TJ included junior setter-hitter Michelle Dorsch and junior hitter Kellyanne Rose. Dorsch helped the Patriots in numerous ways, piling up assists and kills while also providing strong serving. Her versatility was on display in the state final, where she finished with 10 assists, eight kills and three aces.
Rose was a fine server, too, but her strong play at the net was what really stood out.
“Kellyanne was crushing the ball all night,” Jim Dorsch was quoted as saying after Rose had 14 kills to help the Patriots beat C. Milton Wright in the state semis.
With other contributors like Nicole Maldo and Jen Sheridan, who both earned all-area second-team honors, TJ enjoyed one of the finer seasons during an era when it was a dynasty in Frederick County.
2008 Thomas Johnson Patriots
Record: 16-3, Class 4A state finalist
This was Jim Dorsch’s final year as head coach at Thomas Johnson — he would later help start Oakdale’s program — and the Patriots returned to the state final for the first time in 10 years. This also was the first time a Frederick County team appeared in the Class 4A state championship.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, they faced juggernaut Broadneck in the championship match, losing 25-18, 25-21, 23-25, 25-12. For the Bruins, this was the second of three straight state titles.
Still, the Patriots avoided a sweep. And this loss was like all their others that season — it came to a power. Before falling to Broadneck, TJ lost to Liberty, which won the Class 2A state title that year, and Musselman, which won a West Virginia state championship that year.
TJ was blessed with veteran talent. Senior Stacey Niehoff, who was a standout libero as an underclassmen and went on to play at Towson University, switched to outside hitter and earned Frederick News-Post Player of the Year. She averaged a team-high 2.35 kills and 2.38 digs per set.
Senior setter Melanie Springer led the county with 7.5 assists per set while also averaging 1.61 digs and .7 aces.
Joining Springer and Niehoff on The Frederick News-Post all-county first team were senior middle hitter Jenna Dean (2.12 kills per set) and junior middle hitter Megan Lynch (2.22 kills per set).
2014 Oakdale Bears
Record: 18-2, Class 2A state champion
Oakdale, Frederick County’s newest high school volleyball program, ended up becoming the first team from the county to win an MPSSAA state title.
In their fifth season of existence and coached by former TJ coach Jim Dorsch, the Bears beat Rising Sun 25-17, 25-10, 25-18 in the state final, giving Frederick County its first MPSSAA state volleyball champ.
In 2014, Oakdale was the 13th Frederick County team (and the fourth program) to make the MPSSAA final four and the eighth county team to reach the final. Why did this team succeed where others fell short, and how did it manage to do so in its first trip to the state tournament?
For starters, the Bears had senior Liz Twilley, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter who was named the Gatorade State Volleyball Player of the Year for Maryland and went on to play at the University of Maryland. Her senior year, Twilley averaged 5.44 kills per set (she had 20 in the state final), ranked among the county’s digs leaders with 3.26 per set and had a serving percentage of 96. In her career, she piled up 1,128 kills and had a .301 hitting percentage.
Oakdale had two other big contributors in junior outside hitter Abbie Harry and senior setter Londan Caliskan. Harry averaged 4.06 kills per set and 2.37 digs a set, putting her among county leaders in both categories. She also had a penchant for stringing together service aces, something she did in the state final. Caliskan led the county with 10.2 assists per set, finishing with 1,290 in her career, and had 211 in the playoffs. Also, libero Eliza Davis and hitter Cameron Pitts were all-County second-teamers.
As the season progressed, it was clear the Bears were a bonafide force. Their only losses came to Middletown, which included Maryland-bound Erika Pritchard, and North Hagerstown, which won the 3A state title that season. By the way, the Bears avenged their loss to the Knights in the regional playoffs.
2017 Oakdale Bears
Record: 17-2, Class 2A state champion
Three years after making history as Frederick County’s first volleyball MPSSAA state champ, Oakdale won another state crown by beating La Plata 20-25, 25-18, 25-13, 25-23 in the final.
This team bore little resemblance to the one that captured the 2014 state title. Yes, the Bears were still coached by Jim Dorsch, but they relied on an entirely different group of players than the unit that powered Oakdale’s other championship team. Also, they didn’t have a dominant superstar like Liz Twilley, so they compensated by populating the court with many skilled, ready-to-strike players.
One of them was senior outside hitter Megan Ray, who earned Frederick News-Post Player of the Year honors. She averaged 2.67 kills and a team-high 3.04 digs per set. She didn’t shrink from big matches, either, getting 12 kills, 17 digs and four aces in the state final.
The Bears also had a trio of skilled sophomores who were making names for themselves and were destined to have stellar careers — outside hitter Jess Twilley, setter Sydney Katz and outside hitter Jen Chomiak.
Twilley led the team in kills with 2.76 per set and also averaged 2.37 digs, and she came up big in the state semis with 10 kills and eight digs, while Katz averaged 7.6 assists. Both earned Frederick News-Post first-team honors. Chomiak garnered second-team honors, as did Bears junior libero-defensive specialist Caroline Paroby.
Strong serving was a forte for the Bears, who piled up 20 aces in their three-set win over Hereford in the state semis.
With so much in their arsenal, the Bears were a handful.
“We have the five different players who on any given night can go off for six, eight [kills], and particularly with Jess and Megan, they can go off for 15 or 20 kills on any night,” Dorsch said that season. “So it’s tough to defend because we have so many weapons.”
Oakdale’s only losses came to an Urbana team that was on the rise (see below) and dynastic Smithsburg, which went on to win the Class 1A state title, its eighth state crown in nine seasons.
2018 Urbana Hawks
Record: 15-4, Class 4A state finalist
Making their second state tournament appearance and first in nine years, the Hawks reached the state championship match for the first time in program history.
Unfortunately for them, their opponent in the 4A title match was three-time defending state champ Northwest, which beat the Hawks 25-14, 25-13, 25-13.
Urbana was coached by Kayla Martin, who played and coached for mighty Smithsburg, and its driving force on the floor was versatile junior Trinity Burge.
Throughout that season, Burge was a go-to hitter and reliable setter. She performed both duties and then some with equal aplomb in the state semis, where she notched a triple-double by finishing with 18 kills, 17 assists and 14 digs in a 25-12, 31-29, 25-21 win over Eleanor Roosevelt. She also had a .500 hitting percentage that night.
Urbana benefited in the postseason from the return of freshman Tatiana Johnson, a standout who missed a good portion of the season after having an appendectomy. She, along with Makala Thompson and Evyn Banawoye, could be counted on for timely kills.
The Hawks’ defense was paced by defensive specialist Clarisse Diaz, who got 14 digs in the state semis.
Urbana’s regular-season losses came to defending 2A state champ Oakdale, defending 1A state champ Smithsburg and North Hagerstown. Also, the Hawks were the only team to beat Tuscarora during the regular season.
One could make the argument that Urbana’s 2019 team was even stronger, but the 2018 team went much deeper in the playoffs. A long postseason run, coupled with a strong regular season, looms large when sizing up a team.