All season long, North Hagerstown’s volleyball team has overcome the challenges before it.
First, the Hubs edged Williamsport in five sets and swept Smithsburg on the way to winning the MVAL Antietam title.
Then in the Maryland Class 3A West semifinals, trailing 2-1 to Damascus, North won Set 4 30-28 and Set 5 16-14 to keep its state title defense alive.
Finally, in the Class 3A state final on Friday night, the Hubs ran up against the most successful program in state history in Centennial and its 14 championships.
North fell behind by four points midway through both of the first two sets, but the Hubs showed their mental toughness and coolness under pressure to sweep the previously undefeated Eagles 25-20, 25-22, 25-12 and repeat as state champs at the University of Maryland’s Ritchie Coliseum.
“Just unbelievable,” North coach Megan Crawford said. “I didn’t expect it to be in three (sets), but they put it on them.
“We played a couple close (matches) this season, and for some reason, they don’t get stressed.”
The Hubs (18-1) brought home Washington County’s 26th state title, following up on Smithsburg’s Class 1A state title earlier Friday evening.
Williamsport will try give the county three titles this season and 27 overall when the Wildcats face Calvert on Monday night.
“It’s just amazing,” said Crawford, a 2000 Williamsport grad. “We wish Williamsport the best luck. Hopefully we can watch them Monday like Smithsburg stayed and watched us tonight.”
“We all want to make Washington County look good,” said senior Peyton Wallech, who led all players with 23 kills.
Centennial (18-1) clawed out to a 14-10 lead in Set 1 -- helped by six North errors as the Hubs battled early jitters.
Sophomore Zoe Schreiber was key in changing the momentum with her well-placed tips at the net. She found the hole on the left side of the Eagles’ front line three times to pull North within 16-14, and two Centennial hitting errors made it 16-16.
“We practiced (tips) and I have trouble seeing the block sometimes, but I saw it and then the coaches told me where (the holes) were,” Schreiber said.
“Definitely, momentum swung our way once Zoe put those tips down,” Crawford said.
“When they started tipping on us ... We didn’t pick it up and they got into our heads,” Eagles coach Larry Schofield said.
After a Centennial kill gave the Eagles the lead back, North went on a 6-0 run led by four kills by Wallech for a 22-17 lead. Wallech added one more kill and Centennial made a hitting error and a rotation error to give the Hubs the first set.
The Eagles pushed out to an 11-7 lead in Set 2 before a 6-0 run gave North a 13-11 lead, helped by four Centennial errors. The set stayed close until a three-point Hubs run keyed by Wallech’s kill and block gave North a 23-19 lead.
Centennial used a three-point run to close the gap to 23-22 and force Crawford into a timeout. But Wallech put away kills on the next two points to close out the set and put the Hubs one set away from the title.
“Our players knew how to find the spots when it was crucial,” North setter Sarah Bentley said. “ Everyone was doing a good job finding the holes.”
“We got beat by a better team,” Schofield said. “We didn’t execute well at all, and they executed very well.”
In stunning fashion, North turned Set 3 into a rout, racing to a 20-6 lead. Schreiber had six kills and Wallech added four kills and two aces in the final set, which ended on a Centennial hitting error.
“Once our run started going, we felt it,” said Bentley. “We knew it was our time to shine and we kept pushing and pushing.”
The Hubs’ team defense seemed a step quicker than the Eagles all match, as Centennial was often a step late getting to North’s kills and tips.
“Our defense was such a key role,” Lauren Serafini said. “Our team did so great adjusting to what they were doing.”
Schreiber finished with 10 kills, Michey Moody had seven kills and Bentley dished out 35 assists for the Hubs, who finished with 43 kills and 17 errors.
Trisha Mockapetris was effective for Centennial with 14 kills, but no other Eagle had more than five as North’s defense played tough. Centennial finished with 29 kills and 24 errors.
Mockapetris said North’s fan support made an impact: “It was hard to talk, hard to communicate.”
“They did a great job,” Eagles setter Lexi White-Torruellas said of the Hubs. “They deserve to be applauded.”