Confident Eagles fly to final in five Title drive by Centennial survives Hawks' challenge

November 12, 1998|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Faced with a winner-take-all game five after surrendering a two-game lead last night in a Class 2A South regional semifinal, host Centennial brought out its artillery -- a champion's confidence.

The No. 4-ranked Eagles, fighting for their seventh state championship in eight years, scored the first seven points in the deciding game of a 15-5, 15-11, 13-15, 13-15, 15-6 win over No. 10 River Hill.

"We came out confident in that fifth game," said Centennial coach Mike Bossom. "We were mentally prepared and confident that we could do it."

Said junior Beth Stradling: "I think we went out there and said, 'It's the last game. If we don't do this we're out.'"

Centennial (14-3) advanced to the regional final, at home at 5 p.m. tomorrow against No. 2-ranked Mount Hebron for the right to advance to the state semifinals. The undefeated Vikings already have beaten the Eagles twice this season in Howard County League play.

To get there, however, Centennial first had to outlast a resilient River Hill team that seemed as if it were down for the count early.

Led by the hitting of Kim Emrich (14 kills), Stradling (13), Lindsay Feller (11) and Julie Taury (10), the Eagles scored the final 10 points in the opening game to win going away. They then built a 6-1 lead in the second game before holding on for a 15-11 win.

Their serving repeatedly got easy points, including 13 of their 22 aces in the first two games.

But the Hawks came back, even though their lineup was missing outside hitter Kristin Dahlen because of a sprained ankle and an illness weakened Carrie Kelehan, another top outside hitter.

Led by Kelehan and hitter Shannon Patrick, River Hall rallied from a 5-2 deficit to win game three and took the final five points to win game four, tying the match at 2.

"For the last three weeks, we've been working on mental toughness and the good news is that it's working," said River Hill coach Sybil Modispacher. "We never gave in."

In decisive game five, however, the Hawks (9-7) ran out of miracles, looking fatigued in falling behind, 7-0. With the score 14-6, Taury's service winner ended the 2 hour, 24 minute marathon.

Now, the task for Centennial becomes rival Mount Hebron, a team that has beaten the Eagles twice this season. Centennial players say they're looking forward to getting another shot at the Vikings.

"Before we were a little dismantled, you could say," said Stradling. "Now we've really come together, and we're ready to play them."

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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