By Billy Owens
BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. - The Knights' losing streak now sits at three after a tough 3-2 defeat to conference and regional foe Frederick Community College last night at the CCBC Essex Wellness & Athletic Center.
Essex (7-12, 2-6 Maryland Juco) looked to be in firm control of the match, leading by as much as 15-6 in the third set after both teams split the first two.
Frederick (7-2, 7-2 Maryland Juco) roared back to snatch the third set, keeping things close in the fourth and finally shutting the door on the match in the fifth.
"We hadn't beaten Frederick in a while, and it would have been really nice," head coach Geoffrey Koger said. "I had [our team] pumped up, they were excited to play. I thought we played well, just once again, it came [to] crunch time and just couldn't handle it."
The first set saw six lead changes between the Knights and Cougars. Two consecutive aces for sophomore outside hitter Ann Benzinger (Dulaney) gave the Knights their first lead in the set, while two kills apiece for Benzinger, sophomore setter/opposite Sabrina Bradford (Hereford) and freshman outside hitter Annette Thrappas (Carver) throughout the set helped the Knights close it out 25-22.
Frederick started to find its footing midway through the second set after giving up the lead twice within the first 21 points. After retaking it at 12-11, Frederick remained in front to win the second set 25-16 and level the match heading into the third set.
The Knights started the third set in dominant fashion, romping out to a 5-0 advantage off a kill and three straight aces by Benzinger. The Cougars won the next four points to make it 5-4, but the Knights responded by taking 10 of the next 12 points, including seven in a row from 5-4, to take a commanding 15-6 lead.
Frederick put together its own seven-point run from 16-9 down to draw even at 16-16. The teams would go through three more lead changes in the set from that point on, with Frederick squeaking past Essex at 22-22 to win the third 25-23.
"We couldn't side out," Koger said. "This is a repeat of what we always go through, [against other teams] just keep it alive and we just go through this funk.
The fourth set began with another early lead for the Knights as they jumped ahead 5-1. Strong serving and kills by Benzinger and Thrappas, along with crucial block assists by freshman middle blocker Taylor Bundy (Dundalk), helped the Knights preserve the lead and force a final set by winning the fourth 25-19.
Despite a 4-2 lead to begin the fifth set, Essex soon found itself down 6-5, having given up its first lead since the end of the third set. That would be all Frederick needed to close out the match as the visitors held off Essex's comeback attempt and took the fifth set 15-9 for the victory.
Benzinger would finish the match with her eighth double-double of the season, tallying 12 kills and 11 digs while also thumping down eight service aces. Bradford finished with her third double-double of the season, with 11 assists and 11 digs to complement a season-best six kills.
"I thought overall we played really well," Koger said. "We just [had] two big letdowns and one little letdown in tonight's match and that was just enough for the other team."
With the tail end of the regular season drawing ever closer, the Knights seek to snap their three-match losing streak as they host Hagerstown Community College Thursday evening. Match time is scheduled for 6 p.m.