Player of the Year
Briana Zolak, Centennial, senior, hitter: "There was pressure on her to be the leader, the one everybody looked at, and she never shrank back from that or said she didn't want it," said Centennial coach Mike Bossom. "She met the challenge and I think exceeded some people's expectations." Zolak pushes herself hard to be the best, and rarely is satisfied with everything she does in a match. But make no mistake, Zolak does a lot of things well. "She's one of the most complete players I've coached," said Bossom, who has seen many talented players in his four seasons at the Ellicott City school. Zolak is quick, hits the ball extremely hard, is smart and loves to hit the floor on defense (she led the team with 161 digs). A repeat first-team All-County selection, the 5-foot-8 Zolak led the No. 1 Eagles in kills (averaging three per game) and kill efficiency (.369). "She became a smarter hitter [this season] rather than someone that just hits hard," Bossom said. "If teams scouted us, they wouldn't know what shot to take away because she hit in different directions a lot." Zolak's intensity really picked up in the regional final and state tournament. Her shots hit the floor with authority -- she tied the mark for kill efficiency (.545) in the state tournament -- and she hit the floor herself with tremendous defense. "She did a lot of things for us," Bossom said.
Coach of the Year
Mike Bossom, Centennial: The 27-year-old Bossom has coached Centennial to two straight unbeaten seasons and three state titles since taking over the program in 1994. The Eagles began last season No. 1 in The Sun poll, and they haven't relinquished that spot in two years, going 19-0 last year and 20-0 this season. "It's been fun. It really has," said Bossom, a physical education teacher at Baltimore City's Powhatan Elementary School. "You come to practice a little tired and their enthusiasm picks you up and gets you ready. They love to play and it shows. They work very hard every practice." Said Centennial senior Briana Zolak about Bossom: "He's pulled out the best in all of us. He's done a great job." Bossom worked hard to challenge the highly talented Eagles, and succeeded by running a complex system that allows the players many options. Centennial made it look so easy at times because of their skill, work ethic and Bossom's direction. The Eagles will graduate seven players, but Bossom thinks the Centennial tradition -- seven straight county titles and 11 overall and six state titles over the past seven years -- can continue. "I expect us to be very competitive next year," said Bossom, who spends his summer playing two-man beach volleyball at Ocean City and also attends and runs a number of volleyball camps throughout the country.
First team at a glance
Kim Laws, Glenelg, senior, hitter: Laws went from good last year to excellent this season. "Her focus, confidence, leadership and skill -- all those things improved," said Glenelg coach Marlene Dugan. Laws consistently stepped up her game, and led the Gladiators to the final of the Class 1A state championship. "She's the catalyst for the team, the definite leader," said Dugan. Laws inspired her team with superb play -- whether it be her serving, passing or hitting -- and her intensity and desire to win. "I know her hitting got lots of recognition," Dugan said. "But her passing also was very good." Laws averaged three kills per game and had 20 kills in the state final against Mount Savage before spraining her ankle in the fourth game.
Shannon Patrick, River Hill, sophomore, hitter: "She's our most powerful hitter and one of the top three or four hitters in the county," said River Hill coach Sybil Modispacher. Patrick, who averaged 2.4 kills per game and had 47 point blocks, became a smarter hitter this season. "She learned how to control her hits," Modispacher said. A 5-foot-9 middle hitter, Patrick made 92 percent of her serves and had 34 aces. She also was one of the better passers on the team. Patrick was made a captain during the season because of her enthusiasm, energy and her desire that everyone plays their best. "She kept everybody's head in the game and ready to go," Modispacher said.
Robyn West, Centennial, senior, hitter: She was the only player on the Eagles that hit in three different positions -- outside hitter, dTC middle hitter and right side hitter. "And she did that very well," Bossom said. "She did an excellent job for us." Learning the timing for each position meant more repetitions in practice, but West was up to the task. West averaged two kills per game and had 52 aces, second best on the team. "I was very impressed with her aces and the fact that when we needed a good serve she could place the ball," Bossom said. West set a record with 12 aces in the state tournament (six in both matches) and tied a record with five aces in one game. She did that in both semifinal and final matches.