Carlyn Cangiano thrives on the pressure.
One of the top power hitters on Centennial's No. 1 volleyball team, Cangiano has faced high expectations since the day she made the Eagles' varsity as a freshman.
Now that the Eagles have won two straight state Class 3A titles and have compiled a 46-match winning streak, expectations run higher than ever for the 6-foot senior. Add to that the pressure of picking from more than 50 colleges that have shown interest, and it's enough to make any 17-year-old more than a little nervous.
But Cangiano seems to be taking it all in stride.
Ask her if there is pressure on her to fill the shoes left by All-Metro Player of the Year Shannon Saltzman, now at Maryland, and she hesitates a bit before answering.
"I guess there is, because the papers have been saying now that Shannon and Laura [Taneyhill] are gone, they're expecting me to fill the role. But when I go out there I really don't feel it. I just go out there and play my game. I'm me, and I play like myself, and I don't compare myself to anyone else."
Centennial coach Bill Shook said Cangiano can stand up to the inevitable comparisons.
"I think she sort of wants that pressure," says Shook. "Carly has come to me and said, 'I want to be in that spot that Shannon was last year.' "
Shook's high hopes for Cangiano began when he selected her as only the fourth freshman to play on his varsity. In the 10 years of Shook's program, few girls have lasted all four seasons, because Shook keeps only four or five seniors so the team never has to rebuild.
Since day one, Cangiano has been expected to improve so she could reach the level on which she now plays. If she couldn't handle the pressure, she never would have made it this far.
Through the Eagles' 3-0 start this season, Cangiano has compiled 21 kills. Her hitting percentage (something like a batting average) is .231 and should rise. Her serving has been excellent -- 91.2 percent -- with 12 aces in 34 attempts.
One of her trademarks is a devastating jump serve, something rarely seen in local high school competition. "She took a liking to it after seeing some people in college use it," said Shook. "She knew it was something that would make her stand out."
In a match, Cangiano has little trouble standing out. She hits with good placement as well as power and she passes the ball as well as anyone. Consistency is her forte.
A star not only with the Eagles but also with the Columbia Comets 18-and-under club team, Cangiano plays volleyball year-round. After she started playing with the Columbia Volleyball Club as a seventh grader, she decided to give up sports like tennis and softball to concentrate on volleyball.
She found success quickly -- selected as an eighth grader to the United States Volleyball Association's 14-and-under Elite Camp.
One of just 40 girls invited to the camp held that year in Albuquerque, N.M., Cangiano got close again last year. She made it to the final cut for the 18-and-under camp in Colorado Springs.
Right now, Cangiano is weighing her college options. Not ready to disclose her favorites, she said she probably will stay within an eight-hour drive of home.
"It's hard for me to decide what I want in a college. If I go to a smaller school the competition isn't going to be as good, but the classes would be small. If I go to a big school, the competition will be good, but the classes will be so big. I don't want to base my college solely on volleyball," said Cangiano, a member of the National Honor Society who carries a 3.7 grade-point average.
Despite her confusion, Cangiano doesn't seem rattled by the choice facing her. She seems to approach it the same way she approaches a tight match.
"I really like playing under pressure," said Cangiano. "Sometimes it can get to a point where it can be a little stressful when I'm in a close match, but I like playing in tight situations where it can go either way. I just find that really exciting."