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One of the goals for Century’s volleyball team when practice for the 2019 season began in mid-August was to win a regional championship, and the Knights found themselves one win away from that goal when they hosted Oakland Mills on Wednesday in the Class 2A West Region 1 final.

Century reached its goal in a little less than one hour.

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The Knights displayed a balanced offense and polished off the Scorpions in straight sets (25-12, 25-13, 25-16) to earn a championship plaque and advance to the state tournament for the first time in eight years.

“When we’re on our service runs, we’re gaining all the momentum,” said Maria Acaron, a junior outside hitter. “I think we all came into the gym today knowing we want to be regional champs. ‘We are going to win.’ We just had the right mindset the whole time.”

Acaron pitched in on offense with seven kills, with senior outside hitter Carolina Mastria posting a team-high 11 for Century (14-2). The Knights set the tone of the match with runs of four and five points in the first set, then had two five-point bursts in the second set, and one more late in the third before enjoying a celebration on their home court.

Mary Huber, a junior opposite hitter, added six kills while senior libero Ally Everton collected 12 digs. Ali Whitworth, Century’s senior setter who came over this season from Liberty, had 23 assists to go with seven kills. Whitworth showed off a deft touch during key rallies in the match, and mixed in some soft taps with a few strong swings.

“It makes it so much better,” Acaron said about Whitworth’s addition to Century’s well-rounded offense. “When we have all of our options as hitters, but if we’re all in a rut or they’re blocking us, she knows, just dink it over the net. Get a point.”

Whitworth said knowing when to serve a teammate or take matters into her own hands comes by feel more than anything.

“I’ve always kind of done it, and I just kind of know when to,” Whitworth said. “When they least expect it.”

Oakland Mills (5-12) didn’t have a solid regular season, but the Scorpions had back-to-back playoff wins heading into Wednesday’s regional final. They took down Francis Scott Key in straight sets in their postseason opener last week, then swept Howard County rival Glenelg (10-6) on Monday.

Defeating the Gladiators may have been a shocker to some, but OM coach Alison Mariano said a year filled with parity benefited her bunch.

“It’s just a tough loss for the group as a whole,” said Mariano, whose squad featured five seniors. “I really believe, for the most part, that any team can beat any other team on any given day. You come out and play your very best. I thought [Century] played a nice game. ... For us, not so much.”

Sophomore hitter Zhenzhu Nelson shined for Oakland Mills with 10 kills, but the Knights’ defense held her in check considering she had 21 kills against FSK and 22 against Glenelg.

Century coach Bryan Trumbo knew keeping the ball away from Nelson would be key, and success at the service line went a long way toward the Knights’ victory. Trumbo said Huber "has been been ace for us, as far as being able to get us on runs and everything.”

Century takes a five-match winning streak into the state tourney, and the Knights get to stay home in hosting a quarterfinal Friday at 5 p.m.

“The girls have put a lot of work in, and it just is kind of coming to fruition,” Trumbo said. “This is what we’ve always wanted to do since Day One. We’ve talked about it for the last however many years, and now it’s actually happening.”

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