Centennial volleyball returns to state finals after one-year absence

The memory of losing in the state championship match two years ago is still fresh in the minds of the three remaining players from that Centennial juggernaut that was upset by Towson. 

Seniors Lexi White-Torruellas and Trisha Mockapetris, and junior Jessie Link made it a point to return to Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland this season to try and capture the program’s 15th state title.

After disposing of La Plata, 25-13, 25-14, 25-10, in the Class 3A state volleyball semifinals on Wednesday, the Eagles are one victory away from realizing their season-long goal.

“We’re back to avenge our loss,” White-Torruellas said. “We want to win. We want to be able to come back ten years later, look at (the banner on) the wall and be like ‘that was my state championship.’ We’re winning for us, the team from two years ago and all Centennial players.”

The veteran trio made sure that Centennial would advance to Friday night’s final. Mockapetris finished with 10 kills, White-Torruellas had 20 assists and Link added six kills for the Eagles, which improved to 18-0 overall on the season.

“We’ve been so successful because of senior leadership – between (Lexi) and Trisha,” Centennial coach Larry Schofield said. “The seniors were here two years ago. They’re glad to be back, and they have a job to finish.”

The Warriors of Charles County got off to a quick start after earning the match’s first two points. After three ties – the last coming at 7-7 – the Eagles never trailed again for the duration of the match.

Ahead 15-11 in the first opening game, White-Torruellas served eight consecutive points – including two aces as Centennial rolled to the set victory.

“I think we just had some jitters,” White-Torruellas said. “This is a new area for most of the girls because (the gym) is a lot bigger. We got the jitters out in the beginning then we knew it was our game.” 

The Eagles proved it was their game by imposing their will on La Plata. Hitters Kristen Ritchie and Meghan Kelley combined for 15 kills and Cara Walsh served two aces as the team breezed through the final two games. 

Kelley, a sophomore, admitted that playing in the larger arena provided some challenges early.

“Last year I came and watched just to get a feel for the Coliseum,” she said. “It’s more similar to club than it is to anything in high school because we have a tight rectangular gym in high school. This is so much bigger and the lighting is different, but we got used to it.”

After losing in the state finals in 2010, and falling in the 3A East regional playoffs last year, Centennial has played like a team on a mission. 

“We’re bringing the tradition back to Centennial,” Mockapetris said. “We just have to start it again. We took a little break with a couple years for rebounding, but now it's time for us to, full force, take lead and head into the future.”

The Eagles will look to win their 15th state crown – first since 2008 – when they face defending champion North Hagerstown on Friday at 8 p.m. at Ritchie Coliseum.

“This has really been our goal this whole season – to make it to states and to win,” Link said. “We just need to focus on our goals and once we get there, we need to push really hard and achieve our goal.”

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