The last time the Howard volleyball team visited the Centennial gymnasium — on Nov. 9, 2012 — the Lions were swept out of the playoffs in a 3-0 regional championship loss.
When they returned to Centennial's gym on Tuesday night, they vowed to make things different.
"Most of us were on the team last year and we all remembered the heartbreak that we felt after the last game, and we just wanted to come out here and make new memories this year," said Howard senior Sydney Biniak, who led the Lions to a five-set victory with 10 kills, six aces and two blocks. "Self motivation is what helped us win and just staying pumped up every point."
Although Centennial dropped to 6-6 with the loss, the Eagles were not going down without a fight on senior night.
After dropping the first set, 25-13, the Eagles battled back to win the next two, 25-15 and 27-25, to put Howard's back against the wall.
"We knew in the fourth set it was do or die so we just left it all out on the floor," Biniak said.
Howard roared to a 21-2 lead in the fourth set on the strength of a 13-point Lizzie Berg service run, and cruised to a lopsided 25-5 win.
The fifth set was more of the same, as Centennial never quite got a foothold in the 15-5 loss. Biniak had a backbreaking 5-point service run in that tiebreaking set.
"We just kind of went in the tank on serve receive, and we'll work on serve receive again tomorrow," Centennial coach Larry Schofield said. "Our goal is still states ... next Monday everybody is 0-0."
Junior Meghan Kelley led the way for Centennial with 10 kills and two aces.
Howard improved to 11-1 with the win and will now host Glenelg, which beat Marriotts Ridge on Tuesday to also improve to 11-1, for the Howard County title on the last day of the regular season.
"I think it's great. It's just a funny coincidence that it happens to be the scheduled game, but we're all very excited, we've been looking forward to the game on Thursday since we lost to Glenelg (in the second match of the season and it's just another chance to show what we can do," Biniak said.
Howard's Maya Hairston had 11 kills and three blocks, and Courtney Merson contributed 13 kills, three aces and a block.
"What I really was proud was that going into game 4 my girls said 'No, this isn't happening. We're playing volleyball'," Howard coach Grant Scott said. "I couldn't be more proud of them ... we haven't had this kind of challenge in three weeks."
Centennial's Katie Havlik added five kills and a block, Kristen Ritchie had six kills, and Jessie Link tallied seven kills, two aces and a block.
Around the league
Glenelg 3, Marriotts Ridge 0
Morgan Perry led the Gladiators with 17 kills and 12 digs. Sarah Girard added eight kills, four aces and 32 digs. Middle hitters Molly Calvert (8) and Lauren Wright (4) combined for an additional 12 kills. Rachael Girard tallied 28 assists and three aces.
Mt. Hebron 3, Atholton 0
Oakland Mills 3, Long Reach 0
River Hill 3, Reservoir 0
Wilde Lake 3, Hammond 0
Chapelgate 3, John Carroll 0
The Yellowjackets snapped a five-match winning streak by defeating John Carroll in the regular season finale.
Glenelg Country 3, St. Francis 0
Glenelg Country swept St. Francis on senior night after honoring Anna Opoku-Agyeman, Marguerite Madden, Cecilia Narrett and Michelle Orr.
Opoku-Agyeman contributed seven aces to the win.
Junior Alexis Foxwell led the Dragons with five kills followed by sophomore Ka'Mari Robinson with three. Foxwell was also 13-for-13 from the service line with 12 aces. Sophomore Sarah Gibney tallied 15 aces and seven assists.