When Irene Kirkpatrick returned to coach the Sparrows Point volleyball team after six years away, there figured to be something of an adjustment period.
It looks like that period is over — just in time for the playoffs.
The Pointers moved in to the Class 2A North Region II championship match with sweeps of Overlea and Chesapeake.
Sparrows Point (7-6) were to play at top-seeded Patterson (9-3) on Wednesday after The Eagle went to press.
A victory over the Clippers would bring Sparrows Point a regional title and move the Pointers into the Class 2A state quarterfinals.
Sparrows Point defeated Overlea on Thursday, 25-6, 25-6, 25-12, then beat visiting Chesapeake on Monday 25-15, 25-13, 25-20.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Kirkpatrick said. “Early in the season we struggled to stay up, but we’re doing better at that now.
“We’re definitely doing better at serving, serve-receives and working on some skills for our offense.”
Each of the three sets against Chesapeake featured a long service run by the Pointers that helped win the set.
The first set was tight for a while, with Chesapeake grabbing leads of 8-6 and 12-9.
But the Bayhawks then went three services without scoring a point, allowing the Pointers to go up 17-15.
After a dink by Samantha Gamble regained the serve for Sparrows Point, Samantha Smith served seven straight points to close out the set.
Smith had three aces during the run, while Gamble and Ariana Serevetas each had a spike.
Chesapeake took a quick 4-0 lead in the second set, only to have Madison Martell serve six straight points (two aces) to put Sparrows Point ahead 7-4.
The Bayhawks responded, taking a 9-7 lead, but a spike by Gamble put the serve in Smith’s hands.
Smith served 10 straight points, getting four aces and two spikes by gamble to stake out Sparrows Point to an 18-9 lead.
From there, the two teams swapped the serve — and points — back-and-forth until a Martell spike regained the serve and two Chesapeake errors ended the set.
The third set featured several Pointer service runs of shorter duration. Julia Pennington served three points and Martell served five points to give Sparrows Point a 10-3 lead.
The Bayhawks, hindered throughout the match by not being able to put together long service runs, fought back to cut Sparrows Point’s lead to 16-15 through a combination of getting one or two points at a time while preventing Sparrows Point from scoring on its serve.
A dink by Jillian Freda found a hole to make it 17-15, and Pennington served three points to extend it to 20-15.
Spikes by Martell and Serevetas, along with some Chesapeake errors, ended the match.
“We got our service runs today, and that was huge,” Kirkpatrick said. “I always tell the players, you’re either serving or being served on, and it’s best to be serving.
“I’m proud of the team. We’re communicating, covering, and moving with the ball.”
Sparrows Point also had an advantage at the net, where gamble, Smith, Serevetas and Freda were able to get higher, hit harder and block more effectively than their Chesapeake counterparts.