The Maryland 3A volleyball state final tomorrow will pit the perennial power and the new kids on the block after defending champion Centennial and second-year Huntingtown each won semifinal matches last night at North Point to advance to the title match.
In the first match, defending champion Centennial displayed the dominance that has earned it a state-high 11 titles, including six in the past nine years. But the Eagles said that with the neutral court and the excitement of the semifinals, they really didn't hit their stride until the third game.
The Eagles beat North Carroll 25-22, 25-16, 25-11. Centennial will face Huntingtown at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the University Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
"We made a lot of errors early that we need to work on before [the state final] Thursday," said senior middle hitter Michelle Grosso. "Mostly, though, we just need to keep up our intensity."
Grosso led the Eagles (18-1) with nine kills and Tenya Mockapetris and Sarah Gregorini each had seven.
Centennial Coach Michael Bossom has stressed this year that his team can't dwell on last year's title, or the rest of its proud history, and focus instead on creating its own identity.
"I think we've been able to do that," said Mockapetris. "I think we know that if we play our hearts out we can dominate like we did last year."
Huntingtown (16-2) used the night to build on its brief but successful history with a 26-24, 22-25, 28-26, 25-12 win over Towson.
The Hurricanes won the first game before the Generals bounced back and used a 10-0 run to tie the match at a game apiece.
In the third game, Huntingtown trailed from the beginning, but fought back to take its first lead at 24-23 on a kill by junior Lauren Fowler.
"They managed to do that because they were relaxed," Coach Cheryl Lord said. "It was two things -- the experience of being here last year and the best defense they played all year."
Jessica Gaetano led the Hurricanes with 10 kills and Megan Newman had five service aces, each of them at key moments in the match.
After losing in the state semifinals in its inaugural season, Huntingtown reached its goal of going a step further this year.
"It's exciting to be in the final," said Gaetano. "We know Centennial is a very, very strong team."