LA PLATA -- Centennial volleyball coach Bill Shook spent most of the second half of last night's Class 3A semifinals frantically reworking his notes for Saturday's championship.
That's because Shook's second-seeded Eagles (18-0) advanced as expected with a 15-5, 15-12, 15-9 defeat of No. 3 McDonough-Charles, but will not be facing their long-anticipated opponent, Catonsville.
The top-seeded Comets were dominated in stunning fashion by No. 4 Seneca Valley, 15-11, 15-6, 15-9, suffering their first loss in 15 games.
"This is a big surprise. And I think we'll match up much better with Seneca Valley," said Shook, who had scouted Catonsville vs. Loch Raven in the Baltimore County championship and thoroughly expected to face the Comets.
He will now enjoy big advantages in both height and numbers against Seneca Valley Saturday (5 p.m.) at Catonsville Community College.
"I really wanted to play Catonsville," Shook said. "So did the girls, but it's nice to be in the championship either way."
No. 2-ranked Centennial played well -- if conservatively -- in wearing down No. 3 McDonough (14-4).
The Eagles fell behind, 10-5, in the second game, but quickly regrouped behind middle hitter Shannon Saltzman, hitters Laura Taneyhill and Carly Cangiano and key substitute Sandy Palasek.
Centennial turned it around on seven straight service points from Palasek. Jenn Herrman's smash and consecutive kills by Saltzman opened a 13-10 edge, and Centennial went on to win, 15-12, when McDonough's Debbie Allison drove Taneyhill's serve into the ceiling.
In its third-game decision, Centennial opened a quick 6-0 lead on the serving of Sezin Omer and Palasek.
Catonsville was plagued by poor serving and passing, shaky play from its big hitters on the outside and by its lack of a true setter.
"We had serving problems, hitting problems, setting problems," said Comets coach Debbie Clem. "They [Seneca Valley] played great defense, the best I've seen all year. But we just couldn't do anything right."
Jill Altschuler and Jacquie Stigall did have their moments on defense. "If not for them, we would really have been creamed," Clem said.
In contrast, the Screaming Eagles (14-3) had tremendous setting from Sheila Meehan, strong play at the net and outside from Nikki Brassell, and consistent defense off the backline from Katie Meehan and Clair Polo.
"I just hope we can give Centennial a run for the money," said coach Jeff Charulas. "We didn't see them pressed because McDonough is not that good, but we'll try to press them and just see what happens."
* CLASS 2A: Liberty and Mount Hebron will meet for the state Class 2A volleyball title Saturday (noon) at Catonsville.
After a rough start, top-seeded Liberty (16-2) pulled out a 15-13, 16-18, 15-6, 15-10 victory over Rockville yesterday at Parkville High. Mount Hebron (15-3) downed previously unbeaten North Caroline, 15-13, 15-5, 15-8 in yesterday's other semifinal.