Patriots top Clarksburg Coyotes 25-18, 25-13, 25-19.
If there were doubts that the Patriots boys could make it through a tough regular season schedule and match the unbeaten Wootton squads from 2010 and 2011, then those doubts were put to rest on Clarksburg's court in the regular season finale on Monday night. In doing so, the Patriots extended the school's streak of unbeaten regular seasons to three, and for the fourth consecutive year, earned the #1 in the MCPS playoffs.
There will be time to reflect on what the Patriots have already accomplished as they continue on to the playoffs. Of note has been the high level of competition the Patriots have faced this season, and the Clarksburg match offered yet another challenge. During the past few years, Clarksburg Coach Dawn Dickinson has been building a program that has yielded one of the top teams in Montgomery County this year. And playing the Coyotes on their home court is not an easy task.
The Coyotes took it to the Patriots in each set behind their aggressive defense and strong setting. The Patriots were forced to come from behind in each set, including a five-point deficit halfway through set three to ultimately take the match. Once again, senior Michael Ip steadied the Patriot transition game with junior outside hitters Jeffrey Qui feeding off of Justin Fowler's sets. Along with Qui and Zhou, sophomore Paul Malinauskas demonstrated why he is one of the top hitters in the county by taking over the match in clutch situations. Sophomore libero Benjamin Wang provided key digs and passes. IN perhaps his best game of the season, freshman Richard Hum, along with fellow classmate Mark Pang, closed out sets two and three with strong hitting. Senior Alan Ngyen and sophomore Cary Chin picked up the pace of the match with their play in the middle and at opposite.
The Patriots now face rival and #16 seed Churchill in the first round of the MCPS playoffs. Though as #1 seed the Patriots earned home court advantage throughout the playoffs, due to a scheduling conflict at Wootton High School, the Patriots will play at Churchill's Dawgpound in a 7 pm match on Wednesday, May 2.
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