Liller Lifts Northwest Netters to State Final
By Kevin O’Rourke
After a dominating defeat of the 4A South Regional winner, Bowie High School on Wednesday, the Northwest Volleyball team will move on to face the Severna Park Falcons in the school’s first ever trip 4A State Volleyball Championship Game on Monday, a feat few would have predicted for this team at the beginning of the season.
Wednesday’s game which pitted the upstart Jaguars against a 15-1 team from Bowie that was the top seed coming out of the 4A South Region, and the ladies from Northwest were dominating in the 3-0 victory, winning 25-13, 25-9, and 25-9.
The seniorless Jags got a huge performance from junior Emma Liller who lead the team with 12 kills, including the last three points to win the match.
“She was killing it tonight,” said Northwest Coach Stephanie Blake of Liller’s performance. “She was awesome. she’s been doing that all year so it is not a surprise to us.”
Northwest took the first set 25-13 as both teams were working out jitters of being on the big stage in the state tournament at Ritchie Coliseum on the campus of the University of Maryland.
Once the Lady Jags won that first game, they warmed to the task. They were loose, smiling and laughing, encouraging each other throughout the match. Clearly enjoying the competition, while keeping focus and showing no sign of being overwhelmed by the moment.
“They knew that they had to be good team to get here,” said Coach Blake.” We were really just concerned with playing our game and not worry about what the other team had done to get here.”
The second set saw junior Biamba Tshitenge win five kills and Liller added three more kills, to help the Jaguars build up a 15 point lead and take the set, 25-9.
In the early moments of the third set it looked as though Bowie would find their game. Bowie scored with the first point, but a kill by Liller quickly evened the score. A misplayed ball by Bowie, extended the Jag lead. Junior Becca Grundy added another point to make it 3-1 Jags, and Tshitenge added another to make it 4-1 Jags, on serves by junior Jolee Childs.
But then Bowie put together a five point run of its own and soon would take the lead from the lady Jags 6-5. Both teams would trade points and after a rare missed service by Northwest the score was 7-7. Bowie would mishandle the ball which lead to a big block at the net by the Northwest forward players, and the score would be 9-7.
The block at the net would spring the Lady Jags to go on an eleven point run, which included two kills by Emma Liller to extend the lead to 20-8. Liller would score the last three points of the match on precisely placed return balls Bowie could not return.
The second semi-final match of the night saw any hope of an all Montgomery County state final fade as Sherwood High School lost in straight sets to a very powerful Severna Park Falcon team.
At 8:00 pm on Monday, the young Jags team, which is 51-3 this season, will face a Severna Park team is 19-0 and has only lost two sets all season. The Falcons had not dropped a set until the 4A East Regional Final Game against South River High School, which ended 3-2 and allowed Severna Park to advance.
Top: Emma Liller (15 in black) goes up for a one of her 12 kills to help Northwest advance to the State Championship game on Monday.
Next: Northwest’s front line players, freshman Janiece Jefferies (9) and junior Darya Kurochkina (14) go up for a block during Northwest’s victory against Bowie High School on Wednesday night.
Next: Northwest’s Head Volleyball Coach Stephanie Blake, in pink, speaks to her team during time out in Wednesday’s three-set sweep of Bowie.
Next: Janiece Jefferies (9) sets up junior Biamba Tshitenge (12) for one of her five kills in the second set of Wednesday’s victory in the Semi-Finals of the State Volleyball Tournament at Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.