Centennial makes a comeback against River Hill

By James Wagner and Matt Brooks
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 11:39 PM

Down by as many as seven points in the second set Tuesday night against No. 4 River Hill, Centennial senior Liz Brown did the most sensible thing she could to cope.

"I just stopped looking at the scoreboard, and I'm sure everybody else did too," she said. "We just worked on winning one point, just chipping away and chipping away."

It paid off, as Brown helped spark a comeback to claim that set. But the fifth-ranked Eagles (5-0) dug a similar hole two more times, clawing back each set to win and knock off River Hill (5-1) in four games (22-25, 25-23, 25-22, 27-25).

"We have been the queens of comebacks, let me tell you," said Brown, who finished with 19 kills. "Not the most comforting thing being behind."

In an evenly-matched contest between two fierce rivals in front of a boisterous crowd, the Eagles leaned on Brown, senior outside hitter Sam Brostrom and sophomore outside hitter Trisha Mockapetris to beat a team that had knocked them out of last year's playoffs. After losing in the regular season last year to the Eagles, River Hill came on strong late in the season, peaking in the Maryland 3A region final against Centennial, en route to a state final appearance.

In the final set, Brostrom and Mockapetris made key shots to tie it at 23, and then pushed ahead for the win. For Centennial, which is no stranger to winning, Tuesday's victory was as dramatic and fulfilling as a regular season game can get.

Brostrom, who finished with 10 kills and 19 digs, grabbed her sister and jumped on her following the win. Mockapetris, standing nearby and visibly shaken, said: "There's no word to describe how excited I feel."

Osbourn Park seeks tests

For the past decade, Forest Park dominated regular season and tournament play in the Virginia AAA Cardinal District. But a coaching change and several key losses have forced the Bruins into rebuilding mode this fall, and Osbourn Park - which nearly toppled the Forest Park dynasty a year ago - finds itself alone atop the district standings and seemingly without a serious threat to its championship aspirations.

Ninth-ranked Osbourn Park (10-1, 3-0) has yet to drop a set in district play, and following a sweep of Forest Park at Saturday's Colonial Forge Invitational, the Yellow Jackets have now dumped their rivals twice without conceding more than 17 points in a set.

"The district is not anywhere near what it used to be," Osbourn Park Coach Michele Blue said. "A couple teams have improved but others have taken steps back. It could be a huge disadvantage to us down the stretch when I don't think that we're going to be pushed as much as we'd like to be all the way through October."

To combat that concern, the Yellow Jackets have scheduled a pair of difficult early season tournaments. Last Saturday they went 4-1 at Colonial Forge, sweeping perennial Virginia powers Kellam and Mills Godwin along with their hosts and losing 2-1 to Deep Run in a match that ended 18-16 in the third set. This weekend they visit Heritage to take on the 10th-ranked Pride and defending AAA state champions Loudoun Valley.

Senior setter Nikki McMillan, a four-year varsity player, has established herself as the team's leader while senior hitter Aricquel Payne (102 kills) has moved to the outside to replace the firepower lost with Tori Price's graduation. With junior libero Alyssa Sanchez (132 digs) patrolling the back line and senior Erikka Davis (81 kills) contributing up front, the Yellow Jackets like their chances to improve upon last season's Northwest Region semifinal finish.

"These girls watched as freshmen when the team made it to states and they have that experience from last year's regional tournament," Blue said. "But we can't take anyone lightly because now everyone is gunning for us in the district. Now we're the team to beat."

Northern gets boost

Northern senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Schmeiser, who sprained her ankle two weeks ago against McDonough, practiced on Monday and is hoping to resume playing in games this week.

In her absence, junior Alaena Gadwill has played well for the eighth-ranked Patriots. Gadwill, who is two inches taller than the 5-foot-11 Schmeiser, has made up for Schmeiser's missing kills with her blocking ability. The injury has helped Coach Devin Hall develop the depth of her team, which won the Maryland 3A state title last year.

matt.brooks@wpost.com wagnerjames@washpost.com

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