With its season on the line Monday night, the Tuscarora volleyball team somewhat casually fell into an early hole.
The score of the first set against visiting Linganore in the Class 3A West Region I semifinals was 25-19, and it wasn’t that close for much of it.
“We had 17 errors,” Titans coach Ricardo Vera said. “That killed us.”
But Tuscarora kept its nerve and calmly regrouped. Gradually, the tide turned in its favor for a 3-1 victory over the Lancers, 19-25, 25-12, 25-23, 25-20.
“I wasn’t really scared because I know what kind of team we are,” junior outside hitter and setter Julia Slivka said. “I knew we would be able to overcome it.”
The Titans have been slow starters for most of the season. So, dropping the first set wasn’t going to jangle the nerves that much.
“This is a group that likes to have fun. They enjoy playing with each other,” Vera said. “So, sometimes, it takes them a little while to focus.”
On other occasions, nerves are a factor, Slivka admitted, particularly in big matches, like a regional semifinal.
“Then, we get back into our groove,” she said.
Whatever the reason, Tuscarora (13-2) won’t likely be able to afford a slow start in the Region 3A West I final against thee-time state champion North Hagerstown. That match will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tuscarora.
Earlier in the season, the Titans were pushed to five sets by the Hubs before prevailing 3-2.
“I am excited,” Slivka said. “It’s always been our toughest match. We have been working toward this the whole season. I am excited. We are going to work hard.”
Slivka had a team-high 16 digs against Linganore to go along with 13 kills, three service aces, one assist and one block.
Junior teammate Tiffany Shell added a team-high 16 kills and six digs. Senior Caleigh Bernota had 15 kills, 2 digs, 1 ace and one assist, while senior setter Gianni Blundell had 42 assists to go along with 11 digs, three kills, three aces and a block for Tuscarora.
“In the second set, we played fantastic. They came back, and we did what we had to do,” Vera said. “Then, Linganore came back at us and played great defense. That was really nice defense. We kept out of their hitting power. But they played some incredible defense, and that hurt us a little bit.”
The Lancers capped their season at 8-8 overall.
“Walk out of here with your heads high,” Linganore coach Andrea Poffenbarger said. “We gave them a run for their money, a No. 5 seed coming in against a No. 1 seed. That was pretty good for us.”