Much of the talk preceding the Centennial/Seneca Valley state 3A volleyball championship focused not so much on the match itself, but on the Eagles' attempt at a Triple Crown of championships last Saturday.
The Centennial Eagles volleyball players held up their end of thebargain at Catonsville Community College. They swept the Screamin' Eagles from Seneca Valley, 15-13, 15-3, and 15-7.
"We were reminded of it on Friday," said Centennial's Laura Taneyhill. "Soccer was going around passing out directions to their games,and we said 'Hey, we've got a game tomorrow, too.' "
Then again, if there was a safest-game-to-miss contest, the volleyball team wouldprobably win in a landslide, seeing as how it marched through its schedule this year like Sherman going through Georgia en route to a 19-0 record.
This in no way resembles the cliquish, divided 1990 version that collapsed in the regional finals. "We came and watched this last year, and saw teams we knew we were better than," said Centennial's Shannon Saltzman.
"We told ourselves we'd be here next year."
Seneca Valley (13-4) didn't exactly greet Centennial back with open arms. Seneca Valley led, 7-4, before Saltzman came up with two kills to ignite an 8-0 Centennial run. Seneca Valley's excellent hitter, Nikki Brassel, brought her team back to 13-11, but her teammates began scattering their shots as Centennial triumphed, 15-13.
By now word had been passed that the Centennial girls soccer team had triumphed over Dulaney. The volleyball team congratulated their counterparts with an 11-kill salute in the second game. Taneyhill, Saltzman, JenniBartel and Gina Policelli all fired away in the 15-3 rout.
"The student body was so excited," said Centennial captain Jenn Herrmann ofthe school's potential hat trick. "Coach told us, 'I don't want to be the only one to come back without one.' "
"It would have looked bad, to have three go out and only two come back," agreed Saltzman.
They needn't have worried.
Although Centennial fell behind earlyagain, 4-0, kills by Taneyhill and Saltzman helped Centennial draw even at 5-5. From there, sophomore Carly Cangiano took over, with three blocks and three kills to help the Eagles to a 15-7 victory and championship No. 2 for Centennial on the afternoon. The boys soccer teamlater won to make it No. 3.
"It's a rare occasion, and we wanted to try and make this rarity occur," said Centennial volleyball coach Bill Shook.
Local trophy engravers are advised not to throw away their templates. The Eagles will graduate just two players from their current squad. Another trophy in 1992 is certainly not out of the question.
"I see our success in terms of three years, because you're always going to have a down year," said Shook. "Most people think four years, but if you work hard enough you can make it three."
Seneca Valley coach Jeff Changuris was probably wishing afterward he had caught Centennial on the fourth year. He came away from the match likemost of the Eagles vanquished opponents -- impressed.
"They're the best team we've played, 3A, 4A, I don't care what 'A,' " he said. "They've got excellent starters, and they have a lot of depth on the bench, which I didn't have."
"Coach is always reminding us to play up to our level," said Herrmann. "If a team is down here, and you're up here, you have to play up to your level."
That level is pretty far up there. Indeed, nowhere was the air rarer than at Centennial onSaturday.