Centennial's top-ranked volleyball team did a lot of good things last night in its match against visiting Northern of Calvert County. That is, up to a point.
Then the Eagles lost it.
Northern scored the last 10 points of the first game, the last five of the second and final six of the third for a 15-11, 15-12, 15-12 victory in a highly-spirited, 91-minute battle of defending state champions.
"Up to 12 points we played championship volleyball," said Centennial senior Carolyn Dougherty. "But we couldn't get that next point."
Centennial, the Class 2A champion and winner of eight state titles in the last nine years, look impressive in the opener en route to an 11-5 lead. The momentum switched, however, as the Class 3A champion Patriots stepped up their game and capitalized on Centennial mistakes. The Eagles served six more times in the game, but couldn't get another point.
"After we came back in the first game, I thought we could do anything," said Northern senior Mattie Weber, who led the Patriots with 11 kills.
Centennial (0-1) took a 12-10 lead in the second game, but again the combination of mistakes and solid play by Northern did the Eagles in.
Northern, which has now swept the Eagles in their season opener the last three seasons, found itself down 10-5 in the third game. The Patriots (1-0) won four straight points, but Centennial was able to extend its lead to 12-9. The Eagles failed to convert two more service opportunities and watched as the Patriots pulled out another game and the match.
"They were more consistent in the times that mattered," said Centennial junior Lindsay Feller, who had a team-high 13 kills. "We kind of fell apart."
Said Centennial coach Mike Bossom: "We played hard, but we just didn't play well enough to win. When you play a team that is that well-coached and that consistent, if you lose a little focus it will cost you. We lost a little focus and it cost us the match.
"I think we're very evenly matched," Bossom added, "but they hit the shots at the end in all three games."
Northern coach Beth Incrocci, who got an excellent effort from sophomore setter Junel Jeffries (41 assists), said her first-team players practice every day being in situations like last night.
Weber said the first team "doesn't always win" in practice. "But I guess it paid off since we came back tonight," she added.
Centennial played much better yesterday than it did in last season's loss to the Patriots.
"We're a better team now then we were at this time last year," said Dougherty. "We did a lot of things well. We just have to trust each other and play as a team."
Added Feller: "It's frustrating to lose, but we're going to take this match and use it for motivation for the rest of the season."