No. 14 Century sweeps Rising Sun for 2A state volleyball title game berth; Whitworth leads way
by Katherine Dunn
Century High setter Ali Whitworth knows how to keep the opposition guessing.
The senior fed her power hitters throughout Wednesday night’s Class 2A state semifinal volleyball match, but she worked her own magic too, tipping and dumping the ball over the net when she thought she could catch Rising Sun looking for the big hit.
Whitworth finished the match with 22 assists but also had 10 kills including one to seal the No. 14 Knights’ 25-12, 25-23, 25-22 victory over the No. 11 Tigers at Ritchie Coliseum in College Park.
The Knights (16-2 overall) will return to Ritchie Coliseum Saturday at noon to play for the state title against Oakdale, from Frederick County, a 25-15, 25-17, 25-15 winner over LaPlata in the other semifinal. Century won the state title in 2011, the only other time they made it to the state tournament.
Whitworth, who had averaged about four kills per match, said she was “just trying to be creative and finding ways to put the ball down, because it doesn’t really matter if it’s a hard hit as long as it hits the ground.”
In the final set, an ace from Courtney Mettee and kills from Lauren Hudson and Sophia Eckerd helped Rising Sun (14-4) close a four-point deficit to 24-23. Whitworth, who had a variety of hitting options, instead dumped the ball in the middle of the Rising Sun court for the match winner.
“Ali is a great aggressive setter,” Century coach Bryan Trumbo said. “She’s very offensive and when she’s effective, I’m all for it. Some coaches don’t like their setter to be that offensive, but hey, if it’s working, it’s working. The last timeout, I said, ‘You can do this (or) you can do this. Trust your instincts.’”
While the Knights’ top hitter, 5-foot-8 senior outside Caroline Mastria, pounded out 15 kills, Whitworth scored most of her points on tips and dumps to an open spot on the Tigers’ court.
Rising Sun coach Rick Wilson said his team struggled with the varied offense Whitworth ran, something they rarely see during the regular season.
“They really kept us off balance defensively, their setter especially with her dips and dinks and dumps. We kind of never really could settle into good defensive rotation,” said Wilson, who has guided the Tigers to three state championships, most recently in 2015.
The Knights, whose only losses this fall were to No. 1 Westminster in four sets, started the match against Rising Sun strong. The Tigers were within 13-11 before the Knights closed the set with a 12-1 run. Whitworth had four kills in the run, Mastria and Eva Brandt had three each.
The critical second set was tied seven times and Rising Sun led 19-17, but the Knights didn’t make any mistakes the rest of the match. The final point came after a series of Century digs before Maria Acaron’s pass fell on the Tigers’ side of the net.
“One of the most important sets of a three-set match is definitely the second [set],” Knights libero Ally Everton said. “We came out firing, but then they responded clearly and so I think definitely that could have been a turning point (for Rising Sun), but we made sure that it wasn’t.”
Trumbo, in his seventh season as the Knights’ head coach, could become third member of his family to coach a Carroll County team to a state volleyball championship. His sister Becky Groves guided the Knights to the 2011 title and his father Dave Trumbo coached Liberty to back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004.
The Knights face another recent state champion in Oakdale which won the 2014 and 2017 Class 2A titles.
For the Tigers, who have been to the state tournament every year since 2013, making it this year was an accomplishment for a young team that Wilson said experienced its share of “growing pains.”
With just three seniors, the Tigers aim to build on their experience. The UCBAC Chesapeake regular season runner-ups will return their top two hitters — Hudson, who had 13 kills, and Eckerd, who had 10 — but they will graduate senior setter Emily Jackson, who had 19 assists.
“It’s great being here,” Wilson said. “As I told the girls the last day of practice, when you come to state semis, three quarters of the people that make the semis go home with a loss, so there’s no shame in that as far as I’m concerned. One of four teams still playing is a pretty good season. Hats off to Century. They’re a nicely balanced team from an offensive standpoint and obviously, they played hard good hard-nosed defense.”