The top-ranked Gaithersburg volleyball team had not faced a game point in more than two months entering yesterday's Maryland 4A West Region final against Springbrook.
That streak ended in the first game, but Gaithersburg senior setter Bea Livioco had no doubt what would happen next.
"This is our house," Livioco screamed as Springbrook served for the first game. "We pick it up right now."
And they did. The Trojans scored five of the next six points to capture the 41-minute first game, then pulled away for a 17-15, 15-10, 15-2 home victory, clinching a berth in Tuesday's 4A state semifinals.
"A lot of the game is up here," Livioco said, pointing to her head, "and sometimes we forget that."
The win set up a third straight state semifinal meeting between Gaithersburg (17-0) and 4A East Region champion Broadneck. Gaithersburg also entered last year's state tournament with a 17-0 mark, before falling to the eventual state champion Bruins in five games.
"To know that we get another chance [at Broadneck], that's the real victory, because that's the main part of our unfinished business," said senior outside hitter Lauren Weller, who recorded a match-best 19 kills.
Fine serving from Brittany Albright and Vina Vongkhanchanh sparked Gaithersburg runs of 9-0, 6-0 and 8-0 in the final two games, giving the Trojans the rematch they have been waiting for all season.
"That's all we wanted," said junior Lauren Lagler, who chipped in with 10 kills. "Last year it just wasn't satisfying, and we want to finish it for all the other girls who already graduated."
Sherryta Stokes (11 kills) and Gomada Leone (eight) led Springbrook, which finished 14-3.
Centreville Rolls On
Centreville continued its postseason dominance over neighborhood rival Westfield last night and defended its Virginia AAA Northern Region championship with a 15-12, 15-11, 5-15, 15-5 victory at Westfield.
Centreville (19-3) has won four of the five postseason meetings with the Bulldogs, including the past two region finals. Westfield is 6-0 against the Wildcats in regular season matches.
Last night, Centreville's aggressive play, effective serving and suffocating defense made things difficult for the Bulldogs (19-2), whose only other loss in 2002 was to the Wildcats in the Concorde District final.
The serving of Centreville junior Rebecca LaBrake, named the tournament's most valuable player, helped key a Game 2 rally in which the Wildcats recovered from a 6-1 deficit.
Both teams advance to the first round of the state tournament. Centreville will host the Central Region runner-up. Westfield will play at the Central champion.
The Northern Region has never won a state tournament match since it qualified to participate in the state tournament in 2000.
Forest Park: Goals to Go
Forest Park Coach Dan Jones and his players often talk about long-term goals. The Bruins accomplished several with a 15-0, 15-7, 9-15, 15-7 victory over Osbourn Park (18-4) in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region final and immediately began focusing on a goal that eluded last year's quarterfinalists -- advancing all the way to the state final.
The Bruins grabbed a home quarterfinal with yesterday's win; they will host the Eastern Region runner-up on Tuesday, either First Colonial or Kellam.
"We want to get to the finals of states," Jones said. "If you get to states, you get an opportunity to win, so when we get there we'll worry about winning."
Forest Park (23-0) is the only Virginia AAA volleyball team with an undefeated record. Osbourn Park's victory in the third game marked only the fifth time this season the Bruins have lost a game.
Special correspondent Will Toussaint contributed to this report.