Ritchie Coliseum is the desired destination for every high school volleyball team at season’s end, and Carroll has two teams with College Park road trips on their schedule this week.
Westminster is back for a third consecutive trip to University of Maryland’s campus for a state semifinal match. Century, meanwhile, is making its first appearance in seven years.
The Knights (15-2) face Rising Sun (15-2) on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in a Class 2A semifinal before Westminster (17-0) and Northern-Calvert (17-0) face off Thursday in a 3A semifinal.
Winners return to Ritchie on Saturday for the state championship matches.
The venue is different than most high school gymnasiums, with spectators allowed in the upper level of bleachers to create a noisy environment and college-style atmopshere. Sight lines and angles may seem different to those that haven’t played there before.
It’s about adjusting quickly, said Century coach Bryan Trumbo.
“When you get down there, it’s a little bit bigger of a place. The depth perception is a little bit different,” Trumbo said. “And then all of a sudden, you have to just stick to the basics. And stick to your fundamentals of what got you there.”
For the Knights, Trumbo said serving is crucial to their success. Junior opposite hitter Mary Huber has a team-high 189 points, and Trumbo said she has the ability to find holes in an opponent’s defense and spur Century on scoring runs. Senior setter Ali Whitworth is next with 140 points, and senior libero Ally Everton has 128.
Trumbo said Century leans on its core seniors — Everton, hitters Caroline Kennell and Caroline Mastria, and Whitworth — and the Knights want to win their first state title since 2011.
Mastria has 160 kills (3.1 per set) and Kennel has 83, while Everton has 233 digs and Whitworth has 347 assists.
“I try not to build it up as being something too big,” Trumbo said about playing at Ritchie Coliseum. “I don’t want to make them nervous about anything. It’s the vibe of the team, as far as, this is what we’ve worked for.”
Westminster has a rematch with Northern, which swept the Owls in the 2017 state final. Westminster fell short in the state semifinals last season, losing to eventual champion Atholton, but return with determination to being home the program’s first title.
First-year coach Evan Frock said the Owls aren’t worried about any perils of playing at Ritchie Coliseum.
“We’re looking at it as trying to do what we do on a daily basis, and just play volleyball to the best we can play,” Frock said.
Carroll County’s 2019 fall high school sports regular season featured eight varsity teams that claimed Carroll County Athletic League titles.
Senior hitter Jilienne Widener has 320 kills (5.9 per set) to pace Westminster’s offense, but the county champion Owls get plenty of help from juniors Sabina Rinda and Emily Riesner, and sophomore Cassi Shields.
Kasey Thomas, a senior libero, anchors the defense, and Frock rotates between junior Alexis Troy and senior Emily Stauder at setter. Stauder had 18 assists in Westminster’s state quarterfinal win over Reservoir, and Troy handed out 16.
The Owls’ balanced approach should serve them well against a quality foe in Northern, which has 10 state titles and is making its 18th final four appearance.
“We’re playing really tough competition ... and doing what we do,” Frock said. “We just focus on the opponent in front of us and now that opponent is in the semifinals. So we’re focused on that. It’s going to be a great match.”