By Billy Owens
BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. - CCBC Essex women's volleyball finished strong in their fall 2018 home opener with a 3-1 victory over the College of Southern Maryland yesterday evening.
The Knights (3-4, 1-0 Maryland Juco) dominated much of the first two sets and had two match points in the third set before the Hawks (0-3, 0-3 Maryland Juco) managed to turn the tide and force a fourth set.
"[Southern Maryland has] had stronger teams in the past, but a win is a win," head coach Geoffrey Koger said. "Last year we lost to them by two points in the fifth set, and the year before it was also in the fifth set."
Southern Maryland gained an early 6-4 lead over Essex in the first set. Essex came right back to tie it at 6-6 and didn't look back, eventually closing out the first set 25-16.
"We started off with a bunch of errors at the very beginning, and then we eliminated those and kept rolling through with our serves," Koger said. "Our serving helped us a lot and took us out of most of our problems tonight."
The Knights dialed in even more offense in the second set, racking up eight aces and six kills to take the second set 25-5.
Freshman outside hitter Annette Thrappas (Carver) notched back-to-back aces twice in the set, while freshman setter Heather Bertling (Catholic) and sophomore outside hitter Ann Benzinger (Dulaney) each had their own back-to-back aces.
The third set was the most closely contested of the night, as both the Hawks and Knights had five-point leads during the set.
Essex started strong, going up 6-1 and 10-5 before the momentum began to swing in Southern Maryland's favor.
Down 12-9, the Hawks won seven straight points to grab a 16-12 lead, which they soon stretched to 18-13. The Knights rallied to retake the lead at 21-20 and earned two match points at 25-24 and 26-25 but were unable to convert.
The Hawks held them off and eventually won the third set 28-26.
Essex regained momentum in the fourth set as Thrappas, Benzinger, sophomore setter Sabrina Bradford (Hereford) and freshman middle hitter Jennae James (Catonsville) each served an ace during the set.
Freshman middle hitter Emily Dutton (Sparrows Point) served an ace on Essex's third match point to close out the 3-1 win at 25-9 in the fourth set.
Benzinger finished with 17 kills, followed by Thrappas with eight and Bradford with four.
Bradford and Bertling totaled 15 and 11 assists, respectively, while Bertling (11), Bradford (14), Benzinger (16) and Thrappas (14) each finished with double digit digs.
"It was a good warm-up [home] opener for us," Koger said. "It's only going to get rougher for us from here on out."
The Knights look to continue their winning ways as they host Howard Community College on Thursday. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.