Centennial storms back to win in 5 Eagles edge McDonough, will play for state crown

November 14, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Centennial played some of its worst volleyball of the season last night. It also played some of its best.

And like champions, the top-ranked Eagles saved their best for last.

Centennial, which had lost only one game all season, rallied from a 2-1 deficit in games and defeated McDonough of Charles County, 15-17, 15-11, 8-15, 15-8, 15-5 in a Class 3A state semifinal match that lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes at Essex Community College.

The Eagles (18-0) will play Thomas Johnson, a 15-4, 15-4, 15-12 winner over Kenwood in the title match Saturday at 5 p.m. at Catonsville Community College. Thomas Johnson (17-2) lost to Mount Hebron in last year's 3A state final.

"Centennial's a great team," said McDonough coach Gary Cook, whose team was 10-7 last season and making its first appearance in the state semifinals. "We had them 2-1 and their backs were to the wall, but they came out swinging and fighting. They were more assertive and intense."

"We definitely had the momentum at 2-1, but they came out really hard," said McDonough's Michelle Henry. "They came out swinging harder then before. We weren't ready for it."

A combination of Centennial mistakes, including unforced errors and poor serving, and strong play by McDonough gave the Lady Rams a 2-1 lead in games.

The Eagles won two points to pull within 9-8 in the third game, but McDonough (17-2) won the next six points and the game.

Centennial never trailed in the fourth game, which was tied four times, the last at 8-all. Big hits from Robyn West and Briana Zolak helped the Eagles to an 11-8 lead and then McDonough mistakes allowed Centennial to close out the game behind the serving of Suzy McCulloch and Michele Flather.

"Once we got to the fifth game, I knew we had it," said West, who after a slow start played well in the fifth game. "The momentum was with us. You could feel it."

McDonough, which will graduate only two seniors, took a 4-0 lead in the fifth game. But the Lady Rams, who hurt themselves the entire match with poor serves, started playing sloppily.

"That's when we shut off," Cook said. "Centennial saw it and went right at us. They saw the opening and took it. They're just a great team."

The Eagles, who have won five state titles (1989, '91, '92, '93, '94), won nine straight points for a 9-4 lead. A winner by Henry, who along with Clarisa Crowell had excellent games, made it 9-5 but the Eagles closed out the match with six straight points behind the serving of Meredith Price.

"Their experience took over after the fifth game," Henry said. 'They're a very good team."

"We just didn't want to lose," said Price, Centennial's only senior. "That's really why we won at the end. We were down, but we pulled it out in the end. It shows a lot of heart, a lot of desire and fight. We've worked too hard to lose now."

Said Centennial coach Mike Bossom: "Each practice since Aug. 15 has been geared for them to be the best they can be. They didn't do that in the beginning of the match, but they did at the end."

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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