To those not directly involved with the Centennial volleyball program, it may be easy to look at the record 12 state championships and 16 state tournament appearances in the past 30 years and assume that all the Eagles have to do is plug in new players each season and wait for the titles to roll in.
But Coach Michael Bossom and the Centennial players know that every team is different.
Unlike the 2004 championship team, which relied on since-graduated Margot Phelan and Alana Eller for production, the Eagles captured their 12th state title last week by getting contributions from everyone they put on the court at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
Against Huntingtown in the state title match, eight players registered kills , led by Michelle Grosso and Sarah Gregorini (eight each) and Tehya Mockapetris and Allison Cappelaere (seven each). Centennial won the match, 25-14, 25-22, 25-21.
"This year's team was a little less dominated by seniors," said Bossom, who won his eighth state title in 12 years with the Eagles. "This year we are getting more of everybody, and we have a little bit different personality."
Centennial (19-1) worked diligently to find a rhythm early in the season, reeling off 11 straight wins to start the year. The Eagles dropped their only match of the season to Glenelg on Oct. 20 but atoned for that defeat less than two weeks later when they beat the Gladiators to win the county championship.
"We were a new team, and we were struggling to find our identity," said Gregorini about the early portion of the season.
By the time they reached the 3A playoffs, the Eagles were a fine-tuned machine, and they breezed through the East region without dropping a set.
Against the Hurricanes, Centennial jumped to a quick 6-1 lead in the opening game and never looked back, easily winning the set and putting Huntingtown on the defensive.
Although the Hurricanes kept the second and third games close, they couldn't match the experience and depth of the Eagles, who used 11 players during the match, including junior varsity call-up Samantha Luo, who sparked an eight-point Centennial run in the third game.
"They made us make plays, and we had to do good things to beat them," Bossom said. "We had to be consistent on our serve, we had to pass the ball well and we had to be able to do certain things in the middle, and they made us do that because they were not going to beat themselves."
In the championship game, Centennial continued to get strong play from setters Jennifer Feldmann and Kristina Swan. Feldmann, playing her final game for the Eagles, led the team with 21 assists; Swan added 11.
Glenelg Wins First Title
Glenelg's volleyball team didn't have the perfect season it had hoped for, but it did experience a perfect ending.
The Gladiators capped an 18-3 season by winning the school's first state title since 2002 in a 22-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-21 victory over Liberty (18-2) in the 2A final Friday at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
The Gladiators' fourth title in school history came against the team that had dealt them a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in the 2A final in 2003. Outside hitters Julie Hollrah and Brooke Winterling were sophomores on that team and were particularly satisfied to finish their senior season with a victory against the two-time defending 2A champions.
"I've hoped for a long time that we would get to play them again," said Winterling, who had 14 kills, second to Hollrah's match-high 18. "The last time we played it was the toughest loss we've had since I've been here."
Glenelg's title concluded an impressive postseason run.
The Gladiators defeated Howard, Atholton and Southern Maryland Athletic Conference champion Calvert to win the 2A South Region tournament, then posted a 25-13, 25-12, 25-16 victory over Loch Raven in the state semifinals.
During the regular season, Glenelg lost to Atholton and twice to Centennial, including a 19-25, 27-25, 21-25, 14-25 loss in the county championship match. But Glenelg beat Centennial, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-13, during the regular season, becoming the first team to defeat the Eagles in nearly two years.
"I think it really helped us that we compete in our county because it really prepared us for states," said senior setter Allison Gittings. "After we made it to the championship game we were really pumped and knew we were going to win."