The Atholton volleyball team celebrates the program's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
If you ask Vashti Burke and McKay Evans, 1989 was a long time ago. In fact, it was so long ago that neither was born. Still, 1989 weighed heavily on their minds Tuesday, because it was the last time Atholton had defeated Centennial in volleyball.
The No. 14 Raiders used an opportunistic offense and a block-oriented defense to take advantage of several unforced errors by visiting Centennial (4-2, 4-1) and defeat the sixth-ranked Eagles, 22-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-20 in a key Howard County League game.
"I think this game proved who we are," Burke said. "We are just as good as any team in Howard County."
The win touched off a wild celebration after Evans delivered the final kill.
"We just kept our focus and took it point by point," Evans said. "We knew we just had to keep doing what we had been doing and it would pay off."
What the Raiders (5-0, 5-0) were doing was blocking. The front line of Evans, Amanda Goodspeed and Sarah Wagoner gave the Eagles' offense fits.
"We practiced hitting down the line in practice in anticipation" of their blocks, Eagles coach Larry Schofield said. "I had seven kills [from] my middle and my two outsides, and that's just not going to cut it."
Centennial controlled the first set, then held off a late charge by the Raiders to take it 25-22.
Atholton took the lead for good in the second set at 7-6 on Savannah Kelley's tap over the net, then scored nine of the next 11 points to take a 16-8 lead. Centennial closed the gap to 17-12 before Naomi Burke's ace ended the set, 25-16.
The third set was tied at 20 before the Raiders got two aces by Goodspeed to build a 23-20 lead, then held on for a 25-23 win.
Atholton led the entire final set before Evans' thunderous kill gave the Raiders a 25-20 win and a well-earned celebration.
"These girls deserve this," Raiders coach Dave Decker said. "They've all played club and worked hard, but they haven't seen the success they deserve. We challenge each other with blocking in practice, and we have fun with it. It really showed."
Centennial's Trisha Mockapetris, an All-Metro second team selection last year, said the Eagles didn't help their cause much.
"We fell apart mentally," Mockapetris said. "We dug ourselves a hole that we just couldn't get out of. With more work in practice, we'll learn to finish games like this."