After watching his team lose in straight sets at Centennial in Friday night's 3A East regional championship match, Howard volleyball coach Grant Scott was about as pleased as he possibly could have been.
"We didn't play poorly tonight," said Scott, who took solace in the fact that Centennial has the looks of a state champion. "They have a good group of core senior leaders, they know how to play together. They should go all the way."
And with the win — 25-21, 25-17, 25-13 — Centennial (17-0) is now two wins away from its 15th state title. The Eagles will play in the state semifinals Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. against LaPlata (15-2) at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum. The championship match, against the winner of North Hagerstown (16-1) and Bel Air (18-0), would be next Friday at 8 p.m.
"This was our goal, to get to Ritchie Coliseum, and we've achieved it so far," said sophomore Meghan Kelley, who finished with 15 kills. "It's the next step to states."
Kelley, along with senior Trisha Mockapetris, who tallied 17 kills on Friday to exceed 200 for the season, led the red-hot Centennial offensive blitz against Howard.
"We're known as a power team so I said lets back off the power a little bit, everyone's digging in expecting us to hammer the ball, so lets mix it up," coach Larry Schofield said. "Trisha was on fire, and Meghan played one of her best games … She had some smart hits, she had digs, she played a complete game. When her jump serve wasn't working, she made the mature decision to not jump and put it in because that was more important and that's what I like to see, that kind of maturity coming from a sophomore."
Senior setter Lexi White-Torruellas finished with 42 assists.
Howard also has youth, which has Scott excited about next season. The Lions will graduate only one senior — captain Kristen Flint — from this year's 9-8 team.
"We knew this was going to be a building year, changing kids positions, having a sophomore setter (Hanna Webster). But we developed, and as the year progressed we got better and better and better, and it showed in the playoffs," he said. "I'm really looking forward to next year. I've got everybody coming back but my one senior, who's going to be a big loss.
"I'm so proud of these girls. We had to travel four times (to Annapolis, J.M. Bennett, River Hill and Centennial) and the games got harder and harder every time. Centennial just outplayed us tonight. They're not 17-0 for nothing."
Junior Sydney Biniak led the Lions with 14 kills.
"They are who we thought they were, and we knew they were going to come out strong," Biniak said. "We knew we were definitely underdogs, and no one expected us, but we could definitely picture ourselves in this game and that's where we wanted to be … this season was an accomplishment because we all played really well together, and we're learning how to play as a team and we're just going to carry that over to next year."
Webster finished with 21 assists.
Glenelg traveled 70 miles south to Calvert (14-1) for the 2A South championship match, but ended up playing in a nearby middle school because of renovations being made to the Calvert High School gym.
The Gladiators lost, 3-1, to finish their season 12-4.