Towson volleyball coach Emily Berman likes being the underdog.
"We surprise people. I like it that way," she said.
Count Charles County's La Plata as surprised.
The Generals outplayed, out-hustled, out-defended and out-scrapped the Warriors, 25-20, 25-20, 25-19, to earn a place in the Class 3A state championship at 8 p.m. Friday. They will play top-ranked Centennial, which defeated Montgomery County's Blake in the other semifinal.
La Plata (15-3) advanced to Monday night's game by defeating defending Class3A state champion Northern-Calvert in their regional final Friday night. Most in the crowd thought the Warriors would be playing this Friday. Everyone it seemed, except Towson.
Towson (18-0) was smaller and less powerful than its opponent, but the Generals used their top weapon: their defense.
Down 15-12 in the first set, the Generals started to take control. Towson used an ace by Hannah Wohltmann (six kills, 10 digs), a block by Lauren Bosse (eight kills, four digs), and a kill by Emily Lansinger (seven kills) to score the next six points. They never trailed again in the set.
The second and third sets were the same. The Towson defense would counter the power of La Plata's Mary Lavery (16kills, five digs) and Taylor Profit (11kills, two aces) and deposit the balls into empty spots on the other side of the net.
"It's just a matter of being in the right spot at the right time," Wohltmann said. "We were reading the hitters and in the right places."
Towson's offense was led by Ally Teuten, who had 32 assists.
In the other semifinal, Centennial (19-0) rode the back of senior Samantha Brostrom to a place in the final.
Brostrom is known for her power game and controlling the net. After Monday night, she'll be remembered for her serving.
Brostrom contributed nine aces as well as seven kills to lead top-ranked Centennial to a 25-18, 25-10, 25-14 win over Blake (12-6).
"That was an awesome display of serving," Centennial coach Larry Schofield said. "She has really stepped up her game lately, and this was a good example of it."
Said Brostrom: "I was kind of surprised by my serving. I tried to stay tough and stay aggressive."
Centennial was a little flat at the beginning but got rolling midway through the first set. With the game tied at 14, the Eagles used two aces by Kelsey Gibbons (four aces) to build at 16-14 lead. After a service error by Blake, the Eagles reeled off nine of the last 13 points to take the set, 25-18.
Centennial pulled away early in the second and third sets. The Eagles did a good job of keeping Blake's Meagan Lagerlef in check. Lagerlef, who has committed to Howard University for volleyball, led the Bengals with nine kills but was neutralized by Centennial's front line of Brostrom, Liz Brown (seven kills), Katherine Todorovich (two kills) and Trisha Mockapetris (five kills).
"We played the best we could," Blake coach Leigh Tinsley said. "They were a little too much for us. Our serve-receive was our biggest problem."
Centennial will play for its 15th state title Friday, a fact that is not lost on seniors Brown and Brostrom, who were on the Eagles' most recent championship team as sophomores in 2008.
"There's such a great tradition here," said Brostrom, who also contributed nine digs. "Now it's our turn to add to that."