Four Howard County high schools made an impression at the prestigious Bulldog Volleyball Tournament at North Caroline High in Ridgely on the Eastern Shore last weekend.
Centennial won the 15-team event, beating Mount de Sales, 27-29, 25-13, 15-10, while River Hill made it to the semifinals and Reservoir to the quarterfinals. Wilde Lake did not make it out of pool play but was representative of the competitiveness among Howard County teams.
"The Bulldog is one of the best tournaments for volleyball in the state," Centennial coach Larry Schofield said. "In our pool alone, there was Rising Sun, which has won two state titles in Division II, and Huntingtown and Dulaney, which have both been state finalists.
"It was a tough tournament. We played hard and got pushed to play better. When we lost the first game of the finals, my players got together and said, 'Let's go!' "
Centennial got strong performances from its entire team - junior Sarah Hall, senior Kristin Anderson, sophomores Liz Brown and Sam Brostrom and seniors Ashly Fan , Jackie Hawkins and Molly Speicher. But it was Hall whose coach said "was almost unstoppable." The middle hitter finished with a .442 hitting average, which Schofield described as being similar to a baseball batting average.
"Anything over .275 or .300 is very good," he said. "As a team, we hit .311."
River Hill made it to the quarterfinals by beating Wilde Lake, a team it had lost to during the regular season, and then swept Reservoir in the quarters to make to the semis, where the Hawks faced Centennial for the first time.
"Centennial is extremely strong," Hawks coach Sybil Modispacher said. "They're the best we've seen, and we've learned a lot from playing them. The kids came in to practice [this week] very excited about taking the next step. Playing in the Bulldog solidified our team. In a week or so, we'll play Centennial again in a regular-season match. We know what we have to work on. They showed us a lot. I'm sure they'll continue to get better, but we will, too."
Playing for River Hill are senior Becky Paynter, juniors Sarah Gordan, Laura Whitney and Nikki Piper, and sophomores Sarah Okey, Angela Rusconi and Carolyn Kleinberger.
Atholton makes stand
Atholton football coach Chuck Fales had been searching for something to bring his team together. The Raiders returned a veteran lineup from last year's playoff team, and expectations were high. But Fales watched his team struggle. Then on Friday, the Raiders' luck changed. They came from behind twice to take leads against Centennial, and then with 2:10 left in the game and the Eagles a foot from the Raiders' goal line, senior nose tackle Dan Williams, senior defensive ends Ross Durham and Steven Bean, junior safety Matt Robinson, sophomore tackle Adam Brown, senior tackle Alex Kim and senior linebackers Jake Stull and A.J. Brown combined to stuff Centennial's offense on four consecutive downs to wrap up the team's first victory of the season, 20-19.
"It felt really good to make that stop after we came up short against Howard and Mount Hebron," Robinson said. "We needed the stop, and we just developed the mind-set that they were not [going to score.]"
"That stand was a great morale booster," said Fales, whose team is 1-3. "We opened against River Hill and took a lashing, but against Mount Hebron, we were up by 21 points, and we lost, 27-21. Against Howard, we were up 21-7 and lost, 29-26. ... This was one of the first times we needed to make a play and were able to do it. Our biggest problem had been turning the ball over two and three times a game."