When opposing teams step on the court to face Wilde Lake’s volleyball team, it is hard not to notice six-foot-four inch middle hitter Shana Nelson. No. 3 Centennial knew all about Nelson and game planned for her.
“[Nelson] is a force, we knew that coming in,” said Centennial coach Larry Schofield. “We practiced hitting around the middle. We still need to do that better, I don’t think we learned well enough to hit to spot one and spot five to avoid her.”
He added: “One thing that we did well that we worked on was serving tough so that they couldn’t run their offense because if they can set her, she’s going to get a lot of points. But we served them tough enough that they had difficulty running their serve-receive.”
Nelson did the best she could to keep her Wildecats in the match but the Eagles were too strong and swept visiting Wilde Lake, 25-15, 25-13 and 25-20 on Thursday evening.
Centennial welcomed senior captain and outside hitter Sam Brostrom back into the lineup after she missed the first three weeks of the season with a concussion that she suffered in a preseason tournament.
“I was actually very nervous but it’s great to be back in the swing of things. I just really tried to stay consistent,” said Brostrom. “I had a concussion and it took a while for me to get cleared for some reason. It was almost three weeks later before I got back into it.”
She was more than consistent, Brostrom, a two-time All-Metro selection, made her presence felt by tallying a game-high 12 kills along with nine kills and three service aces.
Liz Brown, also an All-Metro selection a year ago, had seven kills and six digs while Katelyn Brehm had 11 assists and Lexi White-Torreullas added nine more for the Eagles (4-0 overall and in league).
Nelson led the way for Wilde Lake (1-3) with nine blocks and five kills. Senior Jess Turner had eight digs and junior Azita Nejaddehghan had seven digs.
The Wildecats hung tough early, tying the score 13-13 in the first game before Brown made a kill to put the Eagles ahead. Brostrom served the next nine points, including two aces to put the game out of reach.
“I think we did a pretty good job of putting the pressure on Wilde Lake,” said Brown. “We had really good hitting and digging today.”
Centennial coasted through the second game thanks to strong serving by White-Torreullas.
But Wilde Lake again fought to keep it close in the final game of the night. After the game was knotted at 16-16, Centennial ran the score to 20-16. With the count 23-19, Trisha Mockapetris (six kills) slammed home a kill and a long serve out of bounds two plays later by Wilde Lake capped the win.
“We came into tonight with a can-do attitude,” said Wilde Lake coach Caitlin Williams. “The girls came in really positive tonight after coming off of tough match with River Hill on Tuesday and the atmosphere in practice yesterday was to come out with our guns blazing.”
“It’s all about mental toughness and finishing,” Williams added. “With us coming out so strong, it was definitely a step in the right direction, it’s just a matter of learning how to finish those runs.”
Centennial, the defending county champion, will face its toughest test of the young season when it travels to No. 1 River Hill on Tuesday at 5:30.
“I am so excited for that,” said Brown of the looming matchup with the top-ranked Hawks. “It should be pretty interesting. I think we need to get focused because we’re all pretty pumped out from last year. I think all that we need to do is to just be consistent with the ball, take care of it on our side and the rest will just fall into place.”
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