With so much talent and depth on his volleyball team, Centennial coach Bill Shook finds it difficult to pinpoint one reason the Eagles went undefeated and won a second straight state championship.
The best Shook can do is pick two reasons -- seniors Shannon Saltzman and Laura Taneyhill.
And what a combination they've been for three years at Centennial. Taneyhill burst onto the scene as a sophomore with great leaping and hitting ability. Saltzman, after deciding to give volleyball a try three years ago, became a sensation last season, when she turned into the county's Player of the Year and one of the state's top front-row players.
This fall, Saltzman and Taneyhill dominated every phase of the game for an Eagles team that is one of the best in state history. As hitters, they were amazingly close statistically. Taneyhill averaged 2.4 kills a game, Saltzman 2.5.
"When one was cold, the other was hot," says Shook of Saltzman and Taneyhill, The Baltimore Sun's Volleyball Players of the Year for Howard County. "Where Shannon was weak, Laura was incredible. Where Laura was weak, Shannon was very good."
The pair formed a foundation that led Centennial to a 38-0 record over the past two seasons. Saltzman gave the Eagles a devastating hitter and blocker in the middle. Taneyhill was the league's premier outside hitter, one of its top defensive players in the back row and the steadiest server on the team.
"I'll miss their work ethic, their constant everyday presence, that model they were in front of the JV kids in the stands," Shook says. "And I'll miss their battles. There was sort of an unspoken competition between them."
At 6 feet, with excellent leaping ability and hitting technique, Saltzman was the county's most intimidating presence at the net.
She made only 58 hitting errors in 363 attempts and recorded a team-high 152 kills in 61 games. She also led the team with 52 point blocks, served 34 aces and played solid defense in the back row. And she finished strongly, with a combined 25 kills in state-playoff victories over McDonough and Walter Johnson.
Taneyhill gave opponents a different set of headaches, although at outside hitter, she could be as intimidating as Saltzman. At 5-7, she relied more on her outstanding three-step approach and 20-inch vertical leap to produce 149 kills -- including a 19-kill performance against Atholton -- in 394 hitting attempts. She made only 54 hitting errors.
Taneyhill also excelled in the back row and as a server, where she enjoyed the best season in Centennial history. She committed only four service errors in 168 attempts, a 97.6 percent success rate. She had 23 aces. And no one, with the possible exception of Mount Hebron's Kelly Quinn, dug out as many tough hits in the back and created more offense from there than Taneyhill.
"Laura got the early headlines as a sophomore. Shannon improved so fast last year and Laura sort of found herself left in the dust," Shook says. "This year, they were on an even keel. They were my two key, all-around players."