Century head coach Becky Groves is all smiles after her team… (Staff Photo by Nicole Muchel )
A successful Carroll County fall sports season came to a close this past week, as two more teams brought home state championships.
The Century volleyball team won its first state crown — the school's second championship this fall — with a four-game victory over Fallston in the Class 2A title game at Ritchie Coliseum in College Park on Nov. 19. Century also won the Class 2A girls' cross country crown.
Both Manchester Valley soccer teams made their first state title appearances at UMBC Stadium, and gained a split.
The Maverick girls won the three-year-old school's first state championship with a 4-1 victory over Brunswick of Frederick County; then the boys' team fell to Mountain Ridge of Allegany County, 1-0, in a penalty-kick shootout.
Century breaks through
Since Becky Groves took over as Century's volleyball coach in 2009, the Knights have made steady progress. The school reached the regional semifinals in Groves' first year, then made it one step further to the regional final last fall.
This year, Century went two steps further to claim the school's first state volleyball title.
It wasn't easy. In the final, Century faced a Fallston team that featured a tall front line and a phenomenal all-around player in senior Rachael Holehouse. The Knights lost the first game, but rebounded to post three straight close victories and defeat the Cougars.
"It's incredible," said Groves. "They've worked hard not just this year, but for the last four years. They wanted the (state title) banner in the gym."
The Knights' powerful attack was a key to the win. Senior Abby Thrift finished with 19 kills, and classmate Morgan Thomas added 16.
"Abby is definitely the best player I've coached," said Groves, whose father, Dave Trumbo, is the volleyball coach at Stevenson University, and guided Liberty to state titles in 2003 and 2004. "And Morgan really came on during the playoffs."
Groves also cited Century's defensive play. The Knights had 74 digs at the defensive end, including 14 by Thomas, 13 by sophomore setter Hailey Thrift, 12 from senior Anna Collins, and Abby Thrift's 11.
"Coach has always said that the game starts with passing," Collins said. "She told us to focus on that in the off season, to get the little tips and dinks, and get the ball to our big hitters like Abby and Morgan."
Century concluded the season with an 18-1 mark. The Knights ended the campaign with five straight wins after absorbing their only loss to Williamsport in the regular-season finale.
"This meant a lot to us," said Thrift, who will continue her volleyball career at Elizabethtown College. "This was for our coach and our seniors. I will be so excited to see it (the banner) go up."
Century defeated Middletown in the Class 2A West Region title game and reached the final with a four-game victory over Loch Raven.
After that win, "we were super-focused," said Thomas, one of the Knights' four senior starters. "We'd never been to the state tournament, so this was a huge deal."
Manchester united in history
Nov. 19 proved to be a huge deal for Manchester Valley soccer teams as well, as both the boys and girls squads made history. They were the first programs in the school's existence to play for state titles.
And both were surprise entrants in the finals. The girls, coached by Joe Miller, finished sixth in the county during the regular season. The boys, who won just five regular-season games, also placed sixth.
The girls' team, which completed its third varsity season with a 15-4 record, overwhelmed Brunswick by a 4-1 score to win the Class 1A state title at UMBC Stadium.
"Last night, I thought about all the years that I played soccer, how I loved to play, and how it would be an awesome way to finish," said the Mavericks' leading scorer, Kristen Cannon, who will play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins.
Manchester Valley topped W.E.B. DuBois, Forestville and North Carroll in the Class 1A South regionals, then bested Snow Hill in a state semifinal to create a rematch with Brunswick for the Class 1A crown. The Mavericks had beaten the Railroaders, 4-2, during the regular season.
The Mavericks got on the scoreboard 30 seconds into the contest, when Cannon took a pass from senior forward Victoria Graham and chipped a shot into the left corner of the net.
"It was amazing that we scored that quickly," said Maverick head coach Joe Miller, whose team outshot Brunswick, 15-6.
When sophomore Danielle Rill shot a loose ball past Brunswick goalie Tara Shriver with 34:31 remaining in the game, Manchester Valley had a solid 2-0 lead.
"The ball came back to me," said Rill. "I was coming forward, and I wasn't sure whether it was going to go over the top or not when I hit it. I was scared to take it, but I trusted myself and took it anyway."