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Century volleyball rides serving runs to sweep of Catonsville in Comets’ season opener

If the team’s first two outings this fall are any indication, Century is ready for Carroll County play.

Looking to build on their 2019 state championship season and 7-1 record in the spring, the Knights have swept both of their opponents during the opening week.

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The latest triumph came Wednesday, as Century defeated host Catonsville, of Baltimore County, by scores of 25-20, 25-13, 25-16. The no. 9 ranked Knights had opened their season with a 25-10, 25-11, 31-29 win over no. 8 Dulaney last Friday.

Against the Comets, senior Eva Brandt led the Knights with 12 kills and Uchechi Mba added eight.

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Although the first set was the closest, the third was the most impressive win.

The Knights trailed 14-8 and reeled off 15 straight points to take a commanding 23-14 lead. Jasmine Stanton was on the service line during the rally.

“What got us back in the third set was Jasmine with her service run,” said Brandt, who had five kills and two blocks during the run using a variety of shots. “Especially if I’m struggling hitting, I know that I have to find a way to make plays and a tip is still a kill, so I’ll take it.”

In the first set, the Comets trailed 19-9 before rallying to make it close behind solid serving from Lyssie Mitchell and Sade Yancey.

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Catonsville coach Amanda Kaufman was proud of the way her team battled back in its first set of the season.

“They kept chipping one point at a time and that’s what we love to see from them, they never quit and kept after it and stayed positive and had that drive,” she said.

The drive was halted in the second set by libero Vanessa Gude, who had seven aces during an 8-0 run that turned a 10-4 lead into an 18-4 advantage for Century.

“Every day we work on passing and serving to make sure everything is working and she just had a good feel of it and kept rolling with it,” Century assistant coach Nick Monteil said.

Catonsville’s lead in the final set came from solid hitting by Mitchell, Najae Batts and Yancey and consistent serving from Kylie Greive and Lauren Miller.

“They came out ready to play in that set,” Kaufman said. “I said just go out there and have fun and sometimes just relaxing makes them play a little bit better. They had nothing to lose at that time.”

Brandt, who had 15 kills in the win over Dulaney, sensed a letdown after her team won the opening two sets handily.

“When you just come off of a big win second set you kind of let up a little bit,” she said. “I think we just need to make sure we play consistent for however many sets we play.”

The comeback by Century didn’t surprise Kaufman, who has returned as Catonsville head coach four years after retiring following a nine-year stint as Comet coach.

“Hats off to Century, they are a fantastic team, very strong offensively and defensively,” she said. “They are definitely a very solid well-rounded team.”

With seven seniors on her team Kaufman expects her team to improve.

“I think we came out a little tight. It’s our first official match against a good team and we were able to see things we’ve got to work through and try to improve and get better from there,” Kaufman said.

Having some experience returning made her adjustment back to coaching easier.

“I had missed it, but they are a great group of girls and we are very senior heavy,” she said. “I’m really looking to them and their leadership to keep us going in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, the Century seniors, like Brandt, hope to go deep into the state tournament like they did when they won the title during the full fall season in 2019.

“We were playing more (in the spring) because we knew how it felt to not be able to play,” Brandt said. “This year, we are hungry for that title again.”

Century opens its Carroll County season on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at home (6 p.m.) against Winters Mill.

Catonsville will play Western Tech at home on Monday, Sept. 13 at 5 p.m.

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