Centennial volleyball rallies to beat River Hill in five sets

Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 09:30:06 PM. Centennial dominated down the stretch to beat River Hill, improve to 8-1 in county, 9-3 overall

Centennial senior Emily Przybyla couldn’t describe what clicked after blowing a late lead to lose the third set at River Hill Tuesday night. It wasn’t something somebody said or a drastic alteration to the game plan, but instead she defined it as a “feeling” and an “attitude” that built with each point.

“I can’t tell you how it works. You feel it,” she said. “It’s a feeling that we all get and suddenly everything is working and we’re talking and it’s just when we come together and our attitude. It sounds silly to say that the attitude and energy on the court is what makes or breaks the game, but all the teams in Howard County are so talented, and on games like this, what really pushed you over is the energy you bring.”

After splitting the first two sets, the Eagles blew a 19-14 lead and lost that third stanza after the Hawks inspired the home crowd and finished on an 11-4 run. But you wouldn’t have ever known based on how Centennial dominated the final two games.

The Eagles went on an 11-2 run midway through the fourth stanza and cruised into the deciding fifth, where they jumped out to a 9-2 lead and held on to spoil River Hill’s senior night and win in five sets (25-19, 22-25, 23-25, 25-14, 15-9) to improve to 8-1 in Howard County and 9-3 overall.

Przybyla, an All-Howard County first-team setter last year, spread the ball around to the tune of 28 assists, most of which found the right arm of Jackie Sterenberg (16 kills). But it was the grit of middle blocker Alex Stanislavsky, who Centennial coach Michael Bossom said became sick before the game, that pushed the Eagles through.

Stanislavsky played sparingly throughout much of the contest but Bossom switched her with the other middle blocker, Nicole Attram (six kills, four blocks), at some point in the fourth set. It paid off in the fifth game, as Stanislavsky and Przybyla controlled the middle of the court and combined for three blocks and a kill to give Centennial an 8-2 advantage.

“Alex is one of our captains and she is positive energy at all times,” Przybyla said. “She is a strong leader and she steps up whenever she has to. ... We’re all so proud of her.”

centennial-volleyball-rallies-to-beat-river-hill-in-five-sets photo 1

A photo gallery look at the updated Howard County volleyball standings through Thursday, Oct. 12.

(Tim Schwartz)

Meanwhile, River Hill (5-4 Howard County, 8-4 overall) lost for the third time in four matches after seeing its seven-game winning streak come to an end on Oct. 10. Coach Lynn Paynter said the difference down the stretch was that Centennial “started turning on the power.”

“They started moving their hits around and we became a little safe, a little careful, and we weren’t moving our feet as well,” she said. “I don’t think we were as competitive as we could be with our serves and they were getting great passes. Emily is the top setter in the county and she moved the ball wherever she wanted and was being very effective, especially to the back row and middle.”

Neither team gained much momentum in a back-and-forth first game that the Eagles led throughout, but the runs picked up in the second set. The Hawks went on a 6-0 run to take a 7-4 lead only to see Centennial answer with its own four-point rally.

But River Hill took control soon after with a 10-2 spurt that made the advantage 17-10 and then held off a late charge by the Eagles to tie the match at a set apiece. Five different Hawks — Devin Hill, Amanda Lee, Heidi Li, Ogenna Umeozulu and Shannon McCarthy — had at least one kill in the set, with McCarthy leading the charge with four.

Sterenberg put the Eagles up 5-3 to start the third with three kills and an ace, and they later broke a 13-13 tie with a 7-1 run. It all came crashing down soon after.

“We’re a team of girls. Sometimes we get outside of ourselves, we get really emotional, so [Centennial coach Michael Bossom] reminded us to play as a team and that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves and that we know we can win,” Przybyla said. “We worked really hard for this.”

Centennial (8-1, 9-3) def. River Hill (5-4, 8-4) — 3-2 [25-19, 22-25, 23-25, 25-14, 15-9]

timschwartz@baltsun.com

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