Commitment to winning

Success: At Centennial, volleyball and state championships seem to go hand in hand.

High School Sports

Fall Preview

Volleyball

September 04, 2001|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

On the high school level, playing for Howard County's Centennial volleyball team is the equivalent of wearing the New York Yankees pinstripes in major-league baseball.

Centennial has won more state volleyball titles (10) than any other Maryland school - five of them in a row - with no end in sight.

For Southern California native Kelsey Tyree, watching Centennial play was love at first sight.

"As an eighth-grader, I saw Centennial play, and right then and there, my ultimate goal was to wear that jersey and play for that team," said Tyree, a 6-foot-2 senior hitter. "I played JV before making the varsity last year and Mr. Schofield [Larry, the JV coach] taught us that the Centennial name is to be held up. It means a lot to be on this team, and it will carry on for years to come because we have a coaching staff that keeps us focused."

"Committed" is the one-word consensus explanation of the coaches, players and parents as to why Centennial is perennially the state's premier program.

"It's a combination of good coaching and everybody plays year-round," said returning All-Metro selection Lindsay Feller, a 6-1 senior hitter.

Feller was introduced to the sport as a seventh-grader, playing for the Condors, a Columbia Volleyball Club team. Centennial coach Mike Bossom also coaches the Condors, and there is no question the club team has been a significant feeder to Centennial's success.

Bill Shook started it all, coaching the school to its first state title in 1989 and added three more, the last in 1993, before passing the torch to Bossom.

Bossom has guided the Eagles to six of their Maryland-record 10 state titles. The Eagles are 10-for-10 in state finals and 10-for-11 in the states overall, their only other appearance in the final four coming in a 1981 semifinal loss.

Centennial has won nine of its state titles over the past 10 years, missing only in 1995, Bossom's second season as head coach when the Eagles lost to Mount Hebron in the region final.

"I had no idea of Centennial's reputation when I graduated from Towson and took a volunteer coaching position under Bill [Shook] as a 23-year-old," said Bossom, a 1988 graduate of Andover High who teaches physical education and health at Centennial. "Bill took me under his wing and I learned a lot from him."

Bossom's coaching philosophy is relatively simple. He has an open-door policy on and off the court, emphasizes player accountability, doesn't yell at or berate his players and sets team goals.

"I'm open to suggestions," said Bossom, who played club volleyball in college and actively participates in team practices. "If there is a better way for us to do something, we do it. It's not all about me."

If there is an authority on Bossom and his style, it's La Salle University sophomore Kim Emrich, who played four years of varsity for Bossom. Emrich closed out her senior year with a fourth consecutive state title in 1999 and All-Metro honors as a hitter.

"Playing for Centennial was the best time of my life because Coach Bossom made it fun," said Emrich, who gave up volleyball after one year at La Salle to concentrate on lacrosse.

"Mr. Bossom is very flexible and easygoing. He relates the sport to life. Playing for him from the time I was 12 was a truly great experience."

Anita Swan, mother of sophomore hitter Erika Swan, said her daughter "visualized" being an Eagle in the seventh grade.

"They [coaches] know volleyball inside and out. Mike keeps on top of everything, inspires the girls and has their respect. They never ask more of the girls than they would demand of themselves."

Anita Swan said her daughter had played travel basketball, but had friends who had played club volleyball for Bossom and said it "was a great experience."

Anita Swan's feelings are typical of Eagles parents who can't wait each year to organize the parents' kickoff barbecue.

"It brings everybody together and gets the parents into it," she said.

At Centennial, everyone involved with the volleyball team is committed to everyone else.

"It's called pride in our program, and we walk on the court knowing we can play with anybody," said Schofield.

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