A run to start the match and another to end it were just enough for Centennial to beat Hammond in four sets on Thursday, 25-9, 21-25, 27-25, 25-19.
The Eagles opened the match red hot, winning the first seven points en route to a dominating first-set victory. The last streak, an 11-0 run, turned a five-point deficit into a six-point win in the fourth set.
The difference, Eagles coach Michael Bossom said, was serving and serve receive.
“We served where we wanted the ball to go, which is hard sometimes, especially when the pressures on the server side,” he said. “It’s not always easy to do that. We served with pace, because sometimes just getting the ball there isn’t good enough, and against Hammond, it’s not.”
Aside from those two runs, the Golden Bears (0-2 county, 3-2 overall) went toe-to-toe with the Eagles (1-2, 2-4). Freshman Safi Hampton had spells of dominance, especially in the second set and early in the third. The 6-footer led Hammond with 10 kills and three blocks while flashing athleticism that Bossom says he’s rarely seen from a freshman.
“As a hitter as a freshman, she’s near the top (I’ve ever seen),” Bossom said.
Golden Bears coach Anne Corey said she was “really excited” to learn she would be attending the Columbia school and not a private school. She has made an immediate impact on and off the court, which was obvious in the second set when she had six kills to lead the Golden Bears to win the set. It’s the first time they’ve won a set against the Eagles in at least five years.
“She has been working her butt off in the offseason, she came in condition. We’re excited to have her on the team,” Corey said of Hampton. “She is working on being an all-around player playing back row and front row. We get really excited when we have her on the floor. And when she makes the connection, it’s unstoppable.”
With the match tied at a set apiece, the turning point came after a Centennial called timeout while trailing, 17-12, in the third stanza. The Eagles chipped away at the lead and tied the score at 18, and after Hammond failed to put them away with a set point, Centennial did the job on their second attempt to close it out. A Kendall Kreider block and a Kayla Kelner ace gave them a 2-1 advantage.
The Golden Bears lead in the fourth set grew to as large as six at 15-9 and stood at four when Logan Maxwell toed the service line. Two aces, two kills by Sarah Allen and Kelner, and a Kreider kill and block came during the 11-0 streak to finish the match and prevent a fifth set.
“I think sometimes the serve receive, we get in our own heads and we can make the pass. And when the pass isn’t there, it’s hard to come up with something on offense,” Corey said. “However, I think tonight, we played better defense than I’ve ever seen. We had way more plays off the block. We had way more people moving around, and we were able to do something with the ball. And that was really exciting.”
Racking up wins while also playing consistent volleyball has been important this week for Centennial after starting the season 0-4. Allen led the way with 10 kills and Kelner had nine, Maxwell had a team-high 35 digs, and Alisha Service had 21 assists while Brianna Bossom had 11.
“It just helps the players realize that all the stuff we’ve been working in practice works when you are consistent with it,” Bossom said. “And part of what we haven’t been is consistent, and even today, we weren’t as consistent. There are still things that we need to work on. But they’re seeing some, all their hard work is coming out and they’re starting to see some success and they’re starting to play better together as a team or starting. So I think that all that is important.”