Nov. 3—FROSTBURG — No. 3 seed Mountain Ridge rallied after early deficits in the first two sets before dominating the final set in a sweep over No. 4 seed Fort Hill in the West Region I quarterfinal on Thursday.
"I thought we played well," Mountain Ridge head coach Valery Broadwater said. "It's nice to have a full team back. Good way to get the playoffs started. It's a good win to start off the playoffs."
The Miners (12-3) won the three sets 25-19, 25-21 and 25-4.
"We played our hearts out for two games," Fort Hill head coach Jordan Fradiska said. "Up 8-2, let them off. I think if we win that second set, obviously it's a different game. I think the girls were just down and didn't have any more energy in the third set."
In the first two sets, tthe Sentinels (6-10) were the team with the faster start. Fort Hill scored the match's first three points.
Two came from kills by Talia Young off Liz O'Neal assists and the other from a Jovie Breitfeller ace.
"I honestly think it was an even game the first two sets," Fradiska said. "We let a couple things get away from us."
Mountain Ridge started to fight back and cut it to 8-6 after Makenna Conway set up Reghan Sivic for a kill.
Mia DeCarlo recorded four consecutive kills with three coming off Avery Tipton assists, and the Miners took a 10-9 lead.
"I felt like once we started passing the ball well, that settled us down," Broadwater said. "Once we got into a routine of having our normal back two in their normal positions, that always helps."
Mountain Ridge held the lead the remainder of the set. After three straight Sentinel errors, the Miners led 21-14.
The set ended on four consecutive errors, two by each team. An error by Fort Hill clinched the set for Mountain Ridge.
Similar to the first set, the Sentinels controlled the first half of the second set. After falling behind 2-1 early, Fort Hill took the lead on an error at 3-2.
The Sentinels went on a 7-3 run and led 10-5. Fort Hill led by as much as six points at 8-2 during the run.
"We've done that all season," Broadwater said. "Get in a little hole and dig ourselves back up. It does show they have heart and they don't give up on each other."
O'Neal recorded four assists and Devon Blank had a pair of kills during the run.
Once again, the Miners started to rally. Mountain Ridge went on a 12-6 run and took a 17-16 lead on an ace from Tipton.
DeCarlo added four kills. The Miners outscored the Sentinels 7-5 to end the set. Tipton set up Kealana Pua'auli for a kill on set point.
"They have big hearts and they just keep playing," Broadwater said. "They thrive on each other making a good play. They feed off of that and that's a good thing."
Up 2-0 in the match, Mountain Ridge dominated the final set. The Miners scored 17 unanswered points to open the set.
Eight points came off aces by DeCarlo. She had three in a row midway through and recorded back-to-back aces a few plays earlier.
"She's a good server because she can pick out spots," Broadwater said. "She has enough ball control to get the spots she's aiming for."
Fort Hill scored its first two points off errors and added another after a kill by Sofia Ottaviani.
"Everything that could go wrong did," Fradiska said.
An error on the Sentinels won the match for Mountain Ridge.
DeCarlo finished with a triple-double, recording 21 points, 14 digs, 11 kills and eight aces. Tipton finished with 20 assists, nine digs and three points. Tipton assisted DeCarlo on eight of her 15 kills.
"Those two have probably played the longest together," Broadwater said. "They've been on the varsity since their sophomore year. Eventually, it comes down to timing and knowing what each other's expecting to do."
Sivic added 10 kills, seven points and four digs and Pua'auli finished with seven kills. Pua'auli is the only freshman on the varsity team.
"Energy and a little bit of presence in the middle of the net," Broadwater said of what Pua'auli adds to the team. "We were ok before, but she takes it up a couple notches for us."
For Fort Hill, O'Neal recorded eight assists and a kill. Breitfeller added six kills and an ace. Young had five blocks and two points.
The Sentinels tripled their win total from last season and Fradiska is optimistic about the program's future.
"I'm proud of my girls," Fradiska said. "We're young, we had two sophomores, two freshmen. Only three seniors, so I'm proud of the way we played this year. You can't take nothing away from Mountain Ridge, they're a good team. But we'll be back and stronger next year."
The Miners advance to the semifinals and will play the winner of No. 2 seed Clear Spring and No. 7 seed Southern on Monday.
Mountain Ridge will either host the Rams or travel to face the Blazers.
"In the playoffs you gotta keep rolling because if you lose, you go home," Broadwater said. "Just wanna keep it rolling, winning a game like that gives you a little more confidence."
Jordan Kendall is a Sports Writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Email him with scores and story suggestions at email@example.com.