Centennial High School girls volleyball coach Brenden Pence was surprised to see his team breeze its way to a 25-18, 25-16, 25-17 home victory over Whetstone in a City League-North Division match Sept. 6.
The first-year coach expects the Stars to face a bigger challenge when the teams meet in the rematch Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Whetstone.
"I have a lot of respect for Whetstone's program and their coach, Errole Rembert, because they're always one of the top contenders in the City League," Pence said. "We had one of our stronger performances when we played Whetstone earlier in the season and we were able to beat them in three (games). But Whetstone is scrappy and well-coached, and they don't want to lose to us on their home court, so I'm expecting a better match at their place. We'll need to play really well to win at Whetstone."
Whetstone defeated Linden-McKinley 25-3, 25-8, 25-15 on Sept. 27 to improve to 8-3 overall and 7-1 in the City-North before playing Northland on Oct. 2. The Braves are led by senior captains Audrey Bollas (middle hitter), Brianna Clemens (middle hitter) and Danielle Fisher (outside hitter).
Pence said his team will need to serve and pass well to defeat the Braves.
"Our serving and passing have been a little suspect at times, so that's the key for us really," he said. "We were definitely lacking in consistency on our first touch when we got here, but our coaching staff has put a big emphasis on fundamentals and we've been surprised with how much improvement our group has shown over a short period of time. If we can take care of our serving and passing against Whetstone, I like our chances of being successful."
Centennial was in first place in the City-North through the first round of league play after beating defending champion Northland 25-21, 25-27, 25-11, 25-18 on Sept. 20.
"Beating Northland was big because we lost to them last year," Pence said. "We also beat Briggs (26-24, 25-20, 25-20 on Sept. 17) and that was big because they may end up winning the City League-South. We passed the ball well and our hitters put the ball away in those matches."
Pence said he was pleased with the way several players contributed while helping his team win 12 of its first 13 matches.
The Stars beat Brookhaven 25-10, 26-24, 25-16 on Sept. 27 to improve to 12-1 overall and 9-0 in the City-North before playing Columbus International in a league match Oct. 2.
Leading Centennial in kills through 13 matches were Marissa Robertson (98), Mary Gardner (71) and Aaliyah Slappy (68), and Sam Meanor had a team-high 305 assists.
Slappy and Sierra Hawkins were leading in blocks, Alyah Dean and Robertson led in digs and Gardner and Symfhani Pitts led in aces.
"We have a balanced lineup and every position has been vital to our success," Pence said. "Our coaching motto is 'Be a star in your own role' and the girls are doing that."
Girls tennis team set for sectional
The girls tennis team will compete in a Division II sectional Thursday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 6, at Columbus School for Girls.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 12 and 13 at CSG.
Competing in singles for the Stars will be Niki Stearns, Jani Stearns and Kate Sullivan.
Playing doubles will be the teams of Courtney Conrad and Bethany Hill and Jesse Manser and Maggie Sullivan.
None of the Stars advanced past the second round of the Division II sectional tournament a year ago.
"I think all of our girls have a chance to win their first match and then they will have to face top guns in the second round," coach Barbara Stevenson said. "Niki has a shot at qualifying for district, but she'll need to get past the fourth-seeded player (Worthington Christian's Jessica Bush) in the second round to get there.
"Niki has great ground strokes and a strong court sense. She has great natural instincts for where to place the ball. She's in great shape and she hits the corners better than most players, so she'll be competitive against just about anyone she plays."
Football team falls to Mifflin
The football team lost to Mifflin 40-6 on Sept. 28 to drop to 1-5 overall and 1-2 in the City-North.
Centennial led 6-0 at the end of the first quarter, but the Punchers outscored the Stars 33-0 in the second and third quarters.
The Stars play host to Northland in a league game Friday, Oct. 5.
The Vikings, who defeated Centennial 42-7 last year, beat Columbus East 20-14 on Sept. 28 to improve to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the City-North. Quarterback Glenn Smith rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and completed three of nine passes for 59 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to Brandon Williams.
Williams also rushed for 22 yards and a touchdown on five carries.