In a reversal of fortune, No. 1 Centennial lost to No. 2 Severna Park in Saturday night's clash of state champions at the seventh annual Bulldog Classic Invitational Volleyball Tournament.
Severna Park (11-0) avenged last year's tournament title-game loss and snapped a 55-match Centennial winning streak with a )) 15-11, 15-2 victory at North Caroline High in Denton. For the Eagles (13-1), beating Severna Park last year at the state's premier high school volleyball tournament sealed the No. 1 ranking they have held ever since.
This time, the Falcons appear to have sealed their own No. 1 status.
The Eagles, state Class 3A champs, had the easier route to Saturday's title game dominating all five preliminary matches including a 15-3, 15-8 semifinal sweep of No. 9 Glen Burnie. When they reached the title game, however, the Eagles played timidly, often opting for tips over power hits and breaking down on defense.
"We were looking at what we saw Severna Park do throughout the day," said Centennial coach Bill Shook. "They progressively got stronger. I think we eased ourselves into an air of confidence. We had a couple of players, who as individuals, were getting emotional when they made mistakes and lost focus on the team game."
On the other hand, Severna Park played a tremendous team game. While the Eagles seemed out of sync almost the entire match, the state Class 4A champs hummed like a machine. They made few mistakes serving, hit strong and played great defense the net and in the backcourt.
Hitters Julie Kasprzak (11 kills) and Jen Conner (nine kills) took advantage of some weak Centennial blocking on the outside.
The Falcons controlled the championship match except for a brief Centennial run midway through the first game.
The run gave the Eagles a 10-7 lead, but Severna Park came quickly back to tie at 10. Erika Hockycko's kill put Centennial ahead 11-10, but that would be their last lead of the match.
Kasprzak nailed a deep-court kill to tie and another off a block to put the Falcons ahead for good 12-11.
The Falcons rolled to an 8-0 lead in the second game before Centennial got a point on Krisha Svehla's tip. Centennial got another point on a Falcons' net violation.
But Centennial couldn't get untracked, and Conner served out the match.
"Severna Park's definitely got the offense to challenge our defense," said Shook. "I wasn't really satisfied with our defense."