Trisha Mockapetris

Centennial senior Trisha Mockapetris, a captain for the county-champion Eagles, has been named the volleyball Player of the Year. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda / December 16, 2012)

Centennial's Trisha Mockapetris still remembers the time that her great aunt came to one of her volleyball matches, and she was surprised to see that her angelic great niece had turned into a lean, mean, volleyball-killing machine.

"I had no idea this sweet little girl could be so intense on the court," Mockapetris recalls her relative saying.

But Mockapetris, the Howard County Times volleyball Player of the Year, has always undergone a transformation after putting on the Eagles uniform.

"My favorite part is when you walk into a gym and you can just hear the crowd screaming. Whether it's your fans or the other team's fans, they came to see you," she said.

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And Mockapetris gave the fans plenty to scream about.

In four seasons, the senior tallied career totals of almost 650 kills in 1,600 attempts, with only 250 errors for an impressive career .250 hitting percentage. A complete player, she also had 54 career blocks, 460 digs, served at over 93 percent and was one of the team's most reliable serve receivers, with only 46 errors in 600 chances. Since starting as a freshman, and being named a team captain as only a sophomore, Mockapetris led the Eagles to three county championships, two regional titles and a District V championship.

After starting her senior season 18-0, including three-set sweeps in their first seven matches, Mockapetris and the Eagles appeared poised to go out with a state championship as well.

It wasn't to be, however, as Centennial fell to North Hagerstown in straight sets in the 3A state championship.

"We had a really good season ... We fought together and learned so much about each other; we flowed together," said Mockapetris, who had 15 of her team's 28 kills in that loss. "We pushed hard enough to get there, but we didn't push as hard as we needed to finish it."

After dropping the first set, Mockapetris gathered her teammates in a corner behind the far stands for a pep talk.

"I didn't really have to say anything. She pulled the team aside," coach Larry Schofield said. "That's what helped me out so much. She was in charge and the girls liked her and really followed her."

But it wasn't always like that. As the younger sister of Tehya Mockapetris — the 2006 Player of the Year for Maryland who led the Eagles to a state championship — Trisha found that volleyball was a way of life early on.

"I was dragged to every practice, every tournament, every game. At age 8 or 9 I said 'I'm sick of just sitting and watching. I want to start playing'," she said.

But aside for their name and love of volleyball, the sisters had little in common.

Tehya stood 5-foot-3 and possessed a 30-inch vertical leap, while Trisha stands 5-foot-10.

Once she started playing, Trisha was eager to make her own name.

As a fourth-grader, she began playing on a middle school club team with future Eagle stars Sam Brostrom and Liz Brown — both Howard County Players of the Year — who led Centennial to the 2008 state championship as sophomores.

When Brostrom and Brown graduated, Mockapetris found herself the captain of Centennial's storied program.

"I was a captain my sophomore year, but I wasn't the one they looked up to. I had to learn how to lead," she said. "It was a different atmosphere going from watching in the stands thinking, 'I'm going to be there one day' to being there as a leader."

Schofield had confidence.