Sparked by outstanding defense and contributions from several players, second-ranked Centennial held top-ranked River Hill to 10 total points in the final two games and defeated the Hawks, 10-15, 15-12, 13-15, 15-1, 15-9, in a Howard County match last night at Centennial.
"We clicked. We've come together," said Centennial hitter Kim Emrich, who had nine kills.
Last month, River Hill beat Centennial in three games for the first time in nine meetings. Eagles coach Mike Bossom said his team made too many mistakes, but that they were correctable.
Centennial not only made less mistakes last night, it got season-best performances from a number of players, including Carolyn Dougherty (10 kills, three point blocks, nine digs), Beth Stradling (eight kills, five aces) and Megan Horst (26 service attempts, no errors and eight aces).
"We had a game plan and we stuck to it," said junior Julija Sajauskas, who tied Jackie Case with a team-high 11 digs. "We decided to keep our heads in the game and to play smart."
The Eagles (9-2 overall, 9-1 county) wanted to keep the ball away from River Hill's top hitter, Shannon Patrick, and they were successful. Patrick, who sparked last month's win over Centennial, never got into any rhythm last night. But she had company.
"There was nothing that was well done," said River Hill coach Sybil Modispacher, whose team lost starter Carrie Kelehan when she rolled her ankle in the first game. "It was a team thing. Everybody had errors."
River Hill (9-2. 9-1) started the match strong, taking a 9-1 lead. The Eagles regrouped and pulled to within 11-10 before the Hawks closed out the game.
"The second half of the first game is when we started playing as a team," said Stradling. "I think we knew all along we could beat them, but it didn't show till the second game."
The Eagles took a 12-3 lead in the second game and won, ending River Hill's 28-game winning streak against county teams. The third game was a marathon, needing a combined 67 serves to decide the outcome. River Hill rallied from an 11-6 deficit to tie the game at 12, then won on an ace from setter Sarah Albert.
Centennial won the first 11 points of the fourth game -- nine behind the serving of Horst -- and took the momentum. Horst had taken over the serving duties for Emrich in the second game and was flawless.
The Eagles took a 7-1 lead in the fifth game, but River Hill battled back and closed to within 8-7. That's when Stradling began a remarkable string of big hits. Her kill shot from the back row stopped the Hawks' run, and Centennial won two more points behind Case's ace and a kill shot from Amanda Olsen (seven kills, eight point blocks).
River Hill made it 10-8, but Stradling got the side-out with another kill. Horst's ace and Dougherty's kill shot made it 12-8.
Stradling earned two more side outs, then served out the match, the final two points on aces.
"I'm so happy," she said.