A year ago River Hill lost three times to Centennial, with two of the matches going to five games.
Last night, it wasn't that close.
River Hill made sure of it.
The fourth-ranked Hawks, who had lost eight straight times to the Eagles since the school opened in 1996, upended the top-ranked Eagles, 15-9, 15-8, 15-11, in a Howard County match at River Hill.
"We came out strong," said senior outside hitter Shannon Patrick, who led the Hawks (5-1 overall, 5-0 league) with 13 kills. "We were very prepared and we played so well as a team."
River Hill established control early, winning the first six points of the match. The Hawks extended their lead to 13-3 before a Centennial rally made the score more respectable.
The Eagles (3-2, 3-1) took 5-2 leads in both the second and third games. But River Hill capitalized on Centennial mistakes and used the solid setting of Sarah Albert (20 assists) and hitting of Patrick, Krystal Jacobson (seven kills) and Lisa Humphrey (six kills) to regain control.
"This is their best team," said Centennial coach Mike Bossom. "They were just consistent. They did nothing fancy, but what they did they did well."
River Hill's plan of attack was to make the Eagles work for everything. "We wanted to place the ball well and work their passers and setters," said River Hill coach Sybil Modispacher. "We didn't want to give them anything."
The Eagles were solid defensively, led by Jackie Case (five digs), Beth Stradling (four) and Kim Emrich and Julija Sajauskas (three each). But they couldn't pass.
"We didn't pass well enough to run a consistent attack," said Bossom, who called the mistakes "fixable."
The Eagles graduated Player of the Year setter Lisa Chapman, and are working with two juniors -- Michelle LeDonne and Vanessa Neuworth -- this season.
"We're still learning them and they're still learning us," said Stradling.
There are no such growing pains at River Hill. Four players -- Patrick, Humphrey, Kristin Dahlen and Carrie Kelehan -- are four-year varsity players, and Albert, who transferred last year from Wilde Lake, has become much more comfortable.
"We wanted this so bad," said Patrick, the Hawks' inspirational leader. "It's our senior year and it's nice to finally take that step up and to play as I know we can play."
Added Modispacher, knowing the season still is young: "The only thing this means is that the kids are playing well, having fun and playing as a team."
Pub Date: 9/28/99