NORMAL — Centennial’s volleyball team not only works together on the court but also when it’s time to answer questions.
The Chargers overpowered Metamora’s 30-win team, 25-10, 25-16, Thursday night to earn the school’s third Class 3A sectional crown in five years.
Libby Cocagne, one of nine Centennial seniors, excitedly exclaimed, “We had five goals. This was the final one.”
Curious minds took the bait.
“What were the other four?” a reporter queried.
“To win all our home games, to make the gold (championship) flight in every tournament,” Cocagne said, before pausing.
“Can I get some help from a friend? Kara, what were our other goals this year?”
Kara Johnson had a response much quicker than the time the team needed (37 minutes) to dispatch the Redbirds in the sweep.
“To win conference,” Johnson said.
It was then they decided perhaps there were only four goals. Coach Stan Bergman came to the rescue.
“The other one is perhaps the easier (to achieve) but the hardest (to remember),” Bergman said, “to stay as close to a family as we could with no drama.”
On the same night the Chargers’ 2012 team established itself as the winningest in school history for one season, collecting win No. 35, Bergman said “What has made this season so special is they get along so well.
“It’s a rarity to have a group like this that is so family-oriented. This a wonderful group of young ladies, and we haven’t had one piece of drama.”
Centennial (35-4) moves into the Elite Eight and a Saturday date at Galesburg against Rock Falls after one of its most dominating performances.
“This was the best we’ve played as a team,” senior setter Maddie Weldon said. “There was not one individual on the court.”
Weldon served Centennial into a 7-0 lead in the opening set. Before the lead mushroomed to 20-5, Metamora (30-9) had used its full allotment of timeouts.
“In any sport, when you get started early and establish yourselves, it takes the wind out of the sails with the opponent,” Bergman said. “They’re like, ‘What do we have to do to get a point?’ ”
The first-set statistics confirmed Centennial’s superiority. The Chargers had 17 points on kills, blocks or aces. Metamora, meanwhile, totaled one kill, no blocks and no aces.
“We came out with the mentality that we were not going to lose,” Cocagne said.
The team hadn’t been into number-crunching.
When asked what it meant to be part of the squad that broke the single-season wins record, Cocagne responded, “Really?”
She recovered quickly.
“It’s amazing because eight of the nine seniors have been together since seventh grade (at Jefferson Middle School),” she said. “It’s awesome to finish together with this.
“Since I started playing volleyball, I’ve looked up to the high school players. Now, to be a high school player who is going on (to the Elite Eight) feels like we’ve accomplished a lot.”
The Chargers had contributions from all spots on the court.
Rachel Jones and Lauren Cloyd led with nine and five kills, respectively. Weldon handed out 12 assists. Lexi Hall had six assists to go with a match-high three service aces. Lindsay Rogan’s eight digs were tops, while Jones and Allie Shannon took care of the net play, putting down two blocks apiece for points and slowing down numerous other hits by deflecting the ball.
Seven squad members had kills, and four served aces. To move on, Centennial will need all that. And more.
“The next opponent will be a step up from where it was tonight,” Bergman said.
Weldon is optimistic that the team can create more firsts and an even bigger impact on the school records. With one more win, the Chargers will be assured of their first state trophy in volleyball.
“We have to continue what we’ve been doing, play our hearts out and keep pushing,” Weldon said. “You can never underestimate another team, but our team has the potential to do that.”