Howard volleyball remains calm in five-set win over River Hill | Howard County sports roundup

·8 min read

River Hill had all the momentum.

The Hawks had just handily won the fourth set of their volleyball match against visiting Howard in a battle of undefeated teams.

To make matters worse for the Lions, one of their top hitters — Kelenna Onukwugha — injured her knee late in the set, causing a five-minute stoppage of play.

But Howard didn’t panic. In fact, the Lions had a new motivation to win the fifth set.

“Other than just keeping our undefeated record, we needed to win for Kelenna,” said junior hitter Corinne Chau.

“We knew that we had to play for her, and we kept pushing,” said senior setter Ayanna Pharoah.

Howard (8-0) won the back-and-forth fifth set to earn the 3-2 road victory with scores of 25-19, 20-25, 25-21, 21-25 and 15-12.

“This team is full of fight,” said Howard coach Allison McCoy. “They don’t give up. We’ve had high-pressure situations from early on in the season, and that taught us that we can do it. I’m proud of them, and this is something we’ll take with us to playoffs.”

Howard opened the match at River Hill High with a 25-19 win in the first set. The Hawks led 14-13, but the Lions won seven of the next nine points to take a commanding lead.

The Hawks then convincingly won the second set to tie the match. River Hill led for the vast majority of the game, and when the Lions pulled within one point late in the set, Shreeni Chikyala scored four straight points — off two kills and two blocks — to vault the Hawks to victory.

Chikyala led the Hawks with a game-high 16 kills and six digs.

“I think a big difference between [Chikyala] and the other middles we see is that she’s a lot faster,” Chau said. “We had to adjust to the speed.”

The Lions had trouble defending Chikyala’s hits, but they improved as the match progressed.

“She’s got a great swing,” said McCoy. “Our challenge was to keep them out of system so they couldn’t use her as much and trying to get our block matchup. We were able to adjust and figure that out as we went through the night.”

The third set was emblematic of the match as a whole. Howard won 25-21, but the game saw five lead changes and several ties.

River Hill led 19-12 in the fourth set, but Howard started surging with a five-point service run from Chau to tie the game at 20. But Onukwugha got hurt two points later, and the Hawks won the set 25-21.

“She’s our go-to person,” said Pharoah. “The energy really dropped when she went down, but we had to fight for her no matter what.”

Pharoah was vital in keeping the Lions calm in the fifth set, directing the offense as its setter. The senior did it all in the match, tallying a game-high 32 assists, 12 digs, seven aces, six kills and four blocks.

“Ayanna is a very good setter,” said River Hill coach Lynn Paynter. “She was moving the ball around well. She took charge of the offense.”

Several other players stepped up in the final set, including sophomore Sophia Platt and Kamyla Bullock.

“Kelenna plays an important role on the team as a hitter. But something we pride ourselves on is that we have 14 talented players who deserve to be on the court,” said McCoy. “With Kelenna hurt, we were ready to step in and step up to that challenge. I was happy to see the girls do that and not give up.”

The loss is the first of the season for River Hill (8-1). Paynter said her team was “disappointed” after the loss, but she hopes they can appreciate the effort against one of the top teams in the county.

“It could have gone either way,” Paynter said. “The seniors are disappointed, but I don’t think they should be. We rose to the occasion against an undefeated Howard team that beat Reservoir and multiple other good teams.”

This story will be updated with a photo gallery.

Howard def. River Hill — 3-2 [25-19, 20-25, 25-21, 21-25, 15-12]

Howard stats: Ayanna Pharoah (32 assists, 12 digs, 7 aces, 6 kills, 4 blocks), Brianna May (25 digs, 2 aces), Corinne Chau (23 digs, 9 kills, 2 blocks), Darien Garner (10 kills), Kelenna Onukwugha (9 kills, 7 digs, 1 ace), Morgan Harris (11 digs, 3 assists, 2 aces), Sanaya Srivastava (4 kills, 4 blocks), Tyller Williams (4 blocks, 2 kills, 6 digs).

River Hill stats: Abby Chicorelli (8 kills, 4 blocks), Christina Lui (9 kills), Grace Leska (11 kills, 2 digs), Shreeni Chikyala (16 kills, 6 blocks, 2 assists, 4 digs), Molly Xu (24 assists, 4 aces), Erin Li (2 digs, 2 aces).

Records: Ho 8-0; RH 8-1.


Reservoir def. Hammond — 3-0 [25-10, 25-16, 27-25]

Records: Re 9-1; Ha 2-6.

Centennial def. Long Reach — 3-0 [25-14, 25-17, 25-17]

Centennial stats: Mailinh Godschall (13 kills, 2 aces, 8 digs), Abi Griffin (5 kills), Emma Booth (2 kills), Holli Kraisser (1 kill, 4 aces, 6 digs), Kaley MacLellan (6 kills, 1 block), Skylar Brown (6 kills, 1 block), Caleigh Kim (16 digs), Zoe Mazerski (3 kills), Rebecca Donovan (5 assists), Brianna Bossom (7 kills, 1 ace, 8 digs, 27 assists).

Long Reach stats: Allison Brown (5 kills, 1 block), Sasha Koola (8 digs), Isabella Mora (1 ace, 5 kills, 8 digs), Hayley Norton (1 ace, 1 kill, 15 assists, 14 digs), Mia Rubio (2 aces, 15 digs).

Records: C 7-1; LR 1-8, 2-8.

Glenelg def. Oakland Mills — 3-0 [25-13, 25-11, 25-21]

The win avenges the Gladiators’ 2019 playoff loss to the Scorpions. Mackenzie Calhoun led Glenelg with 19 kills, nine digs and five aces, while Lindsay Kelley tallied 28 assists.

Glenelg stats: Mackenzie Calhoun (5 aces, 19 kills, 9 digs), Lindsay Kelley (2 aces, 4 kills, 28 assists, 2 digs), Liesl Walter (4 kills, 2 blocks, 1 dig), Sarah Parker (4 kills, 3 aces, 6 digs), Sydney Yoon (2 aces, 2 assists, 14 digs), Brenna Rutter (3 kills, 1 dig).

Records: G 4-4; OM 1-8.

Marriotts Ridge def. Atholton — 3-1 [25-14, 23-25, 25-15, 25-10]

Marriotts Ridge stats: Leah Liu (7 kills, 2 aces, 4 digs), Olivia Kuznetsova (7 kills, 2 aces, 2 sigs, 3 blocks), Vivian O’Brien (10 kills, 1 ace, 10 digs), Eva Hull (21 assists), Rhisen Davis (7 kills, 2 aces, 18 digs), Manasvi Mamilla (2 aces, 15 digs).

Records: MR 5-3; A 2-7.

Mt. Hebron def. Wilde Lake — 3-0 [25-16, 25-15, 25-17]

Mt. Hebron tallied 13 aces by seven different players and had digs by 10 different players en route to the straight-set victory.

Mt. Hebron stats: Emerson Rose (21 assists, 11 digs, 2 aces), Juliana Guzman (10 digs, 4 assists, 2 aces), Ava Bradley (11 kills, 3 digs, 2 aces), Jillian Shoultz (8 kills), Rachel Swigart (7 kills 1 dig), Caroline Zheng (7 digs, 2 assists, 1 ace).

Records: MH 4-5; WL 0-8.


River Hill 2, Long Reach 1

Goals: RH — Ara Omitowoju, Vivian Yao; LR — Jessica Ruano.

Assists: RH — Yao, Allie Lubitz.

Saves: RH — Shyann Hansen 8, Caroline Duffy 5.

Halftime: 0-0.

Records: RH 4-2, 5-4; LR 1-6.

Oakland Mills 3, Hammond 1

Kaity Browne scored twice to lead the Scorpions to their first county win of the season. Rebecca Fairbanks scored and assisted both of Browne’s goals.

Goals: OM — Kaity Browne 2, Rebecca Fairbanks; Ha — Laura Keister.

Assists: OM — Fairbanks 2.

Saves: OM — Paige Andrews 5; Ha — Angela Neira 5.

Records: OM 1-5, 2-5; Ha 1-6, 2-6.

Reservoir 2, Wilde Lake 1

Goals: Re — Avery Oergel, Sophie Davidson; WL — Jenna Eylanbekov.

Assists: Re — Maya Gunning, Oergel; WL — Gia Johnson.

Saves: Re — Kendall Hartman 5; WL — Hannah Lowry 12.

Halftime: 1-0, Re.

Records: Re 3-4, 4-5; WL 3-4, 4-4.

Atholton 2, Centennial 1

Ava Morales scored two set-piece goals — one late in each half — to lead the Raiders to victory.

Goals: A — Ava Morales 2; C — Lauren Pellegrini (PK).

Assists: A — Sumara Bedward.

Saves: C — Olivia Jackson 5.

Halftime: 1-0, A.

Records: A 4-2; C 2-5.

Glenelg 4, Howard 2

Goals: G — Stephanie Lathrop 2, Ginny Sung, Emily Robinson; Ho — Dani Farias, Natalie Rodriguez.

Assists: G — Bailey Allmon, Ava Stamatakis, Amelia McCarthy, Lathrop; Ho — Farias.

Saves: G — Bella Buscher 1; Ho — Ansley Glasgow 5.

Halftime: 3-2, G.

Records: G 6-1; Ho 2-4, 3-4.

Marriotts Ridge 1, Mt. Hebron 0

In a battle of unbeaten teams, the Mustangs pitched their eighth shutout of the season to improve to 10-0 and hand the Vikings their first loss. The lone goal of the contest was an own goal by Mt. Hebron.

Goals: MR — Own goal (MH).

Saves: MR — Caroline Albert 8; MH — Claire Fitzsimmons 5.

Halftime: 0-0.

Records: MR 7-0, 10-0; MH 5-1, 5-2.

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