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Centennial faces challenges to its dynasty


They have won the state Class 3A title four years in a row. But as dominating as Centennial's volleyball program has been, there are those who dare to say that the Eagles might not even be the best team in the county this year.

"I think it's going to be questionable who is going to win the county this year," said Glenelg coach Marene Janis, whose team tied for second place with Mount Hebron last year. "I have a young team but I see a lot of athletic ability and potential. I see a lot of depth from the bench. I feel comfortable putting in anybody."

Atholton coach Sybil Kessinger likes her team's chances as well.

"A lot of people think Centennial has it locked up, but in this county any team can rise up to the top," said Kessinger, whose team reached the state Class 2A final last year before losing to Loch Raven.

Kessinger said her team's strength is their "teamwork and dedication to each other. The chemistry is better [than last year]. We can spend more time working on skills then developing a team because we are a team."

But perhaps the biggest threat to Centennial's dynasty comes from Mount Hebron, where Henry Dahlan has replaced Jeannine McCrumb as coach.

"We have a good rivalry," said Dahlan, who was the head coach at Hammond for 13 years before becoming an assistant last year at Mount Hebron. "Centennial has a very young team this year. It'll depend on how quickly they mature. Mount Hebron has a senior-laden team with a lot of experience. Right now I feel we have the athletes that can take us all the way."

Centennial coach Mike Bossom agrees with Dahlan, to a point. He sees another team going the distance.

"Skill-wise, we're the same," said Bossom, who begins his second year as head coach. "Mount Hebron has an older team. They're jelling now. They look very strong because they've played a lot more together. We have a young team. We just need to come together as a team; we just need to click.

"I think we can win another state championship. I have a lot of faith in them. This is a very hard-working group of girls."

Centennial graduated four starters from last year's No. 1-ranked team, including first-team All-County players Sheri Kujawa, Kelly West and Krisha Svehla. Heading the list of returnees are second-team All-County player Meredith Price and seniors Jen West and Heather Tolkach.

But with six sophomores on the team, their performance will go a long way toward determining the Eagles' success.

"They're going to be more active this year," Bossom said of the sophomore class. "The seniors have earned the chance. They've been through the program and will get playing time. But if the seniors aren't pulling their weight, then the sophomores will get the nod. The seniors know that. That's why practice is more interesting."

The Eagles will be strong because of their talent, club experience and togetherness.

"We have a lot of skill, and a lot of young talent," said Price, the only junior on the team. "The fact that so many players play club ball gives us such an edge. And we're really a tight team this year, closer then last year."

More than half of Mount Hebron's team is seniors, and that's why Dahlan believes his team can overtake Centennial.

"We have seniors with lots of experience," he said. "And a lot of them play club. They play a lot together."

Heading the way for Mount Hebron will be middle hitter Kate Hannas, a 6-foot-3 senior. "We expect her to dominate," Dahlan said. "We expect her to be the top player in Howard County this year."

But what about the top team?

Well, it's a long way until the playoffs begin the first week of November. But it's only seven days until Sept. 22. And that's an important date.

Centennial at Mount Hebron. Need we say more.

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