The Winning Beat Goes On

With Coach Gone, Centennial Players Look To Continue Successful Tradition

August 30, 2006|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Sun reporter

Centennial's volleyball team has gone 39-1 over the past two seasons, and there are a number of reasons to believe it could continue that kind of dominance.

There's All-Metro hitter Michelle Grosso, who is 5 feet 11 and talks about winning as continuing "to do our thing."

There's Tehya Mockapetris, who stuns opponents with her powerful hitting. She is only 5-3 but makes up for it with a 28 1/2 -inch vertical leap.

There's Kristina Swan, a senior setter who is as strategic as she is skillful, and Kasey Quinn, whose versatility as a hitter and defensive specialist defines Centennial's depth.

However, there is one significant ingredient missing -- coach Mike Bossom.

In late July, he became coach at Goucher College, which was impressed by his resume. His Eagles won eight state championships in 12 seasons, and he compiled a 216-21 record for a .911 winning percentage.

In his final season, Centennial went 19-1, won its second straight state Class 3A title and finished ranked No. 1 for the seventh time during his tenure.

Grosso said the players were somewhat "surprised and shocked" that he left and said they will miss him. She also said they don't plan on missing a beat on the court. After all, Centennial has won 12 state titles overall, which ties it for the state record with Williamsport.

The move was bittersweet for Bossom, who said, "It was time to move up to the next level and take the opportunity." And the challenge. Goucher was 6-26 last season and has gone 9-87 over the past three years.

It also will be a challenge for Bossom's successor, Jerry Hulla, who was an assistant last season and has had coaching stints in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.

"I think it's a responsibility to carry on and a tremendous honor to follow Mike and Bill Shook, who won four state titles in five years, before [Bossom]," Hulla said.

"It's been a much easier transition with Coach Hulla," Grosso said. "His approach to volleyball is similar to Coach Bossom's."

Mockapetris had a similar reaction.

"It's been a smooth transition because this team has really good chemistry," said Mockapetris, a second-team All-Howard County hitter last year as a junior. "Practice is a little longer and right now we haven't spent as much time in the weight room as we did last year, but things are very similar. We are friends on and off the court and like to connect with each other on our one goal -- to win a state title."

Swan said the team could miss Bossom's emphasis on the mental aspects of volleyball and its relation to life's lessons.

"The one thing about Coach Bossom is that he didn't look at just skills," Swan said. "He stressed the mental side and the learning experiences from volleyball as a part of life. I grew up having him as my coach."

But she and Grosso and Mockapetris also have grown up in the Centennial program, and have helped shape its success and reputation.

"It's quite an honor to play for Centennial because of the tradition," Mockapetris said. "We have to keep the tradition alive in a really tough league and region."

A coach has to have the players to win championships, and Bossom would be the first to give credit to his players. Gifted coaches, though, can help players realize their potential. Bossom was able to do that, and now it will be Hulla's challenge.

"I'm excited about this team and its experience and attitude," Hulla said. Among the eight seniors, six were "heavy contributors to last year's state champion, and we expect to get contributions from the others," Hulla said.

One of those key seniors is Quinn, who likes what she sees.

"We have a lot of potential as a team," Quinn said. "Any problems that occur will be taken care of because we support each other. We minimize our mistakes, have a strong offense with strong hitting and our defense is very good. Coach Hulla is a strong believer in defense, and we have a lot of faith in him."

Swan also believes in accountability from the players.

"I feel that a coach is very much a part of success, but ultimately, it's how the team works and we can't let losing a coach get in the way of our reaching our goal."

pat.omalley@baltsun.com

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