Century entered University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum on Wednesday with a trip to the state championship on the line, and senior libero Ally Everton said the Knights didn’t come to play scared.
The Knights had to get past a persistent Rising Sun squad in a 2A state semifinal first. They used straight sets to defeat the Tigers 25-12, 25-22, 25-23, and will face Oakdale in the 2A state championship Saturday at 12 p.m.
Senior setter Ali Whitworth delivered the final point that secured the victory for the Knights (16-2). She helped lead the team with 10 kills, and handed out 22 assists. Senior hitter Caroline Mastria notched a match-high 15 kills and three service aces, and junior hitter Maria Acaron had six kills.
“It felt amazing, and it was kind of a relief for that game to be over because it was a really challenging match,” Everton said. “I think it really pushed us to our limits. It was so exciting for that ball to hit the ground and for it to be over and for us to move on.”
Century cruised to a victory in the first set with the help of a late 9-0 scoring run, sparked by a kill off a block from Mastria. Rising Sun cut the deficit to 22-12 off a Century service error, but the Knights finished off the set with another kill from Mastria.
Rising Sun gave the Knights a much bigger challenge in the second and third sets.
The Tigers (15-3) picked up an 8-4 lead until a kill from Mastria trimmed that deficit. The Tigers took another four-point lead, but the Knights used three service aces in a row to tie the set at 10-10. A pair of kills and a service ace from junior hitter Sophia Eckerd made it 17-16 in Rising Sun’s favor.
The Tigers called a timeout after the Knights made it 21-19, and the teams went back and forth until Acaron delivered a tip kill to close out the second set.
“That’s probably one of the most important sets, at least in a three-set match, is definitely the second game,” Everton said. “We came out firing but they responded clearly and so I think that could have been a turning point but we made sure that it wasn’t.”
Rising Sun picked up a one-point lead three times in the third set and played close with Century once again, but the Knights continued to bounce back.
A kill from Eckerd off a block made it 15-14 for Rising Sun, but Century regained the lead and never lost it again. The Knights got to within 24-20, but the Tigers scored the next three points to prompt a timeout for the Knights, their first of the match.
Everton, Whitworth, and Acaron fell to their knees and got back up just in time to be surrounded by the rest of their teammates to celebrate after Whitworth’s dump hit the ground on the opposite side of the net on match point.
“I felt like Rising Sun started to pick up their level of play in games two and three,” Knights coach Bryan Trumbo said. “[Lauren Hudson]…we were surprised by how good she was and we felt like we got in [Eckerd’s] head and slowed her down a little bit in Game 1 and she wasn’t swinging as aggressively but [Hudson] had a great game.”
“I think the biggest thing that helped in us pulling away was our serves,” Mastria said in agreement. “Once we started getting our serves in, it allowed us to really pull away and play our own game and once we controlled our side then we were really able to pull away.”