For four River Hill players, reaching the state finals has been a goal since the school opened four years ago.

That goal was finally met tonight, as the No. 7 Hawks (18-2) rallied from a two-games-to-one deficit to defeat Thomas Johnson, 15-5, 11-15, 13-15, 15-3, 15-4, in a Maryland 3A semifinal at Essex Community College.

The powerful hitting and serving of River Hill senior Shannon Patrick proved to be the difference in the final two games. Patrick served six aces in the fourth game and tallied nine of her match-high 25 kills in the fifth game, including a blast down the line to win the match against the Patriots (17-2).

Patrick and senior teammates Kristin Dahlen, Lisa Humphrey and Carrie Kelehan all dreamed of this day when they began playing at River Hill their freshman year. But the past three seasons, the Hawks have been knocked out by eight-time 2A champion Centennial. This year, River Hill moved up to 3A, and thus avoided their county rival.

"They walked into the gym in August of '96 and set the goal of going to states," said River Hill Coach Sybil Modispacher. "There is nothing better than to have a great group of kids reach the goals they have set."

Added Patrick: "For four years it's been my dream and desire to go to states. So after four years, going to states is great. It's a great way to end a career."

River Hill will meet No. 1 Northern at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Catonsville Community College. Northern defeated Bel Air in the other 3A semifinal.

The No. 1 Patriots (18-0) have yet to drop a game in a match this season and were never in danger of breaking that streak against Bel Air (12-5), defeating the Harford County school, 15-2, 15-2, 15-2, in roughly 30 minutes.

Senior outside hitter Katie Radford led Northern--the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference champion--with 12 kills and senior middle hitter Devin Karcesky added five kills.

No. 5 Centennial took a step closer to winning its record ninth Maryland 2A state title with a 15-11, 15-5, 15-1 victory over Hereford in a semifinal.

The Eagles (17-2) rallied from a 10-8 first game deficit behind a pair of aces from junior Jackie Case and one kill from sophomore Lindsay Feller, who finished with a match-high eight kills.

Centennial was led by a balanced performance from its roster; all 15 players got in the match. Seniors Kim Emrich and Amanda Olsen and junior Carolyn Daugherty each tallied five kills. Senior Erin Rochelle came off the bench to serve 12 consecutive points in the final game.

Centennial will meet Francis Scott Key in the 2A final on Saturday at Catonsville Community College.

Virginia Notes: Centreville and Langley's first year of volleyball came to an end Tuesday evening in the quarterfinals of the Virginia state tournament. Langley (15-5 and the Northern Region champion) was defeated by Mills Godwin, 15-4, 15-8, 15-4. In another quarterfinal, Douglass Freeman defeated Centreville, 15-7, 15-1, 13-15, 16-14.

Osbourn Park's season also ended with a 15-9, 15-7, 15-5 loss to Cox. The Yellow Jackets (17-6) won the Cardinal District Tournament and were Northwest Region semifinalists.