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This week: Centennial volleyball is the top-ranked area team in our latest rankings, but the Chargers have a long tradition of success.
Date: Sept. 22, 2004
Headline: Changing on the fly
CHAMPAIGN — Teenaged athletes don't always respond to change with a positive result.
Centennial volleyball coach Stan Bergman witnessed a firsthand example last week when the varsity match against Normal West was played prior to the junior varsity contest.
The Chargers lost the varsity match in two games.
Centennial was forced to deal with another change Tuesday when Champaign Central invaded its gymnasium for the annual battle between the Unit 4 rivals.
Bergman estimated he has used a two-setter offense "95 percent of the time" this season as his team won 12 of its first 16 matches. Midway through Game 1, senior setter Brittany Banks went down with a knee injury and the Chargers shifted to a one-setter offense, relying on junior Tina Paunicka.
Centennial, which held a 16-6 lead when Banks departed, finished off a 25-14 victory in the first game and completed the sweep with a 25-12 win.
"I'm proud of the way they regrouped and continued with business as usual," Bergman said. "For them to maintain their composure and actually do better in Game 2, is quite a tribute."
Central (7-2) led only once in the match, scoring the first point in Game 2 on a kill by team leader Sarah Aquino (six kills).
"Today was an opportunity for us to show what we have, but we did not play as we have in other matches," Central coach Mike Marassa said. "We thought we would need to dig about 50 or 60 balls to win, and we dug about 20."
The Chargers held a 17-9 edge on kills and an 8-0 cushion on service aces.
"This was definitely one of our better matches," said Rachel McClarey, one of the Chargers' five seniors.
"We closed our block well and made them swing more timid," added Kelly Schmidt, another senior who had a team-high five kills to go with two blocks and three aces.
Centennial set its school record for wins last season (31). Though four seniors graduated, Bergman sees similar potential for his current group.
"Last year, we were a great team, and this year we're a great athletic team with the seniors teaching these juniors how to compete like last year," he said. "Athletically, this team is much better."
For the match, 11 different athletes played and eight started in at least one game for the Chargers (13-4). Only Paunicka and outside hitter Brittany Behnke played every rotation in both games.
"We have a lot of depth, and my job this year is extremely difficult because of the depth," Bergman said. "On any given night, anyone can be the superstar."
Centennial took control early in each game, building a 9-2 lead in the opener and then an 11-5 edge in Game 2, which concluded with Molly Gehrt serving aces for three of the last six points.
"This one means more than any others because they're in our own town and we know most of them," McClarey said.
"We look forward to this game the most," Schmidt said.
Paunicka finished with a match-high 12 assists. Behnke and Rachel Evers had eight and seven digs, respectively, for Centennial. Courtney Hinton added three kills.
"Centennial played extremely well," Marassa said. "They were in system quite a lot and their offense ran very smoothly."