By James Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 20, 2010; 2:10 AM
As Towson volleyball players mobbed and piled on each other on the court at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum, their counterparts from Centennial watched in disbelief from the other side of the net. Standout senior Liz Brown crouched with her arms out, while junior setter Grace Chao, her face already red and teary, held her hand over her mouth.
The third-ranked Eagles were stunned at what transpired over the final three sets of the Maryland 3A final on Friday night. Entering the match, Centennial, a Howard County school with rich volleyball history and 14 state titles, had never lost a state title game.
But with a hard-fought two-set lead, Centennial gave Towson the opening it needed for its defense and well-placed kills to swing the match. The Generals won in dramatic fashion, 21-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-23, 15-13.
"We had it, we lost it," Brown said. "They scrambled more, they wanted it more, we choked."
Playing as one unit, the Generals (21-0) jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the third set with tenacious defense, digging the attempted kills and dumps of the taller Centennial players.
But Centennial (18-1) wouldn't make up the deficit in that set. The Eagles feature a strong and versatile front line with Brown (16 kills and 13 digs) and senior outside hitter Samantha Brostrom (17 kills and 14 digs). But strong hits just weren't enough.
"They were digging," said Centennial Coach Larry Schofield, whose team was playing for its first state title since 2008. "We knew they were good defensively and we worked on different shots and everything worked for the first two games."
Down 21-20 in the fourth set, both teams traded jabs - attempted kills, well-placed dumps and diving saves - before Brostrom had a crowd-rousing kill, seemingly swinging the momentum back to Centennial. But the Towson defense again stepped up and notched the needed final points.
In the final set, Centennial couldn't string together consistent serves, missing six and giving Towson the lead, which they held. In all, the Eagles missed 22 serves in the loss.
"I guess it comes down to mental toughness," Schofield said. "As hard as they were all trying, those serves are what killed us."