GALESBURG — Centennial’s best volleyball team got even better Saturday.
Two days after breaking the school’s single-season record for wins, the Chargers continued their series of postseason sweeps by topping Rock Falls 25-17, 25-21 to guarantee themselves of a state trophy for the first time in volleyball.
“This is life,” Chargers coach Stan Bergman said. “The hard work and everything they have poured in as players has come out this postseason. Their commitment to one another and to the sport shows. It does not surprise me where we are.”
Where the team finds itself is in the Class 3A state semifinals and a rematch with a storied Wheaton St. Francis team Centennial defeated in the semifinals of Effingham’s Crossroads Classic.
“We did it once, and we can do it again,” Centennial senior Kara Johnson said. “We know a lot about them. We know they’re good, but this time it’s more important and we’ll have even more energy. It will be an exciting match.”
The Chargers (36-4) have been leaving no doubt about their superiority in the postseason. All five of the team’s tourney wins have been in two sets.
Against Rock Falls, the Chargers jumped ahead 10-6 and sprinted the rest of the way.
“We got out in the first set and controlled them,” Bergman said. “We really dominated in all aspects.”
A balanced offense was sparked by Johnson (nine kills), Rachel Jones (eight kills) and Lauren Cloyd (seven kills). Maddie Weldon had 17 assists. Lindsay Rogan had 15 digs and also served the final three points after Rock Falls had pulled into a 21-21 second-set deadlock.
“Next to being smart with what we do, momentum is the biggest thing,” Jones said. “Once we pounce on a team, we’re almost unstoppable.”
Johnson was one of three freshmen in 2009 (along with Cloyd and Allie Shannon) who were part of the last Centennial team to be on the verge of state. That squad was beaten in the super-sectional.
“We’ve had a lot of great players, and here we are with another set,” Bergman said. “What an honor it is to have this group of young ladies and be part of what they have done for the school, and for the program.”
Johnson said, despite the long bus ride, the team was focused from the outset.
“We came out with amazing energy and didn’t let up,” she said. “We had our foot on the gas and wouldn’t let them back in. That’s the mind-set we’ve had throughout the postseason.”
Johnson was one of the team’s statistical leaders but she said her role was no more important than any of the other 13 teammates who were in uniform.
“We push each other in practice every day,” she said, “and we’re getting better every game we play. We’ve definitely made ourselves known.
“We have made history, and everyone will remember this team. I think we’ll finish the season doing amazing things.”
Bergman will be less hurried as he starts preparations for the team’s state debut.
“We don’t have to scramble around and look for tape,” he said.
“We have it at home.”
On Sept. 8, the Chargers topped St. Francis in three sets, winning the tiebreaker 25-21.
Centennial’s volleyball program will join the school’s IHSA championship tennis teams from 1994 and ’95 as the only girls’ squads to earn team trophies at state.
Class 1A: Titans celebrate
WINDSOR — Tri-County sisters Amber, Ami and Autumn Meyer had more to celebrate than just their 18th birthday Saturday.
Tri-County’s first trip to the state volleyball tournament was pretty cool, too.
“Most of the crowd sang happy birthday to them when we were getting our plaque,” Tri-County coach Drew Robertson said.
“It was neat.”
The Titans (35-2) advanced to the Class 1A Final Four with a 25-19, 25-11 romp against Edinburg at the Windsor Super-Sectional.
Lizzy Barnard had 10 kills, and Heidi Dague had seven. Autumn Meyer had 11 digs, and Amber Meyer had 25 assists.
“These girls can look back at this the rest of their lives,” Robertson said. “But right now, we still have work to do.”
STREATOR — At Woodland High, Schlarman (29-6) lost 25-10, 25-11 to Mount Pulaski, which on Thursday won its 22nd sectional title.
Class 2A: Watseka falls short
SERENA — Watseka’s state bid fell one match short following a 25-23, 25-19 loss to Byron.
“These girls still have a lot to be proud of,” said Watseka coach Krista Pufahl, whose team went 64-8 with back-to-back Elite Eight appearances the last two seasons.
“That’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Taylor Bauer and Allison Kaper each had five kills for Watseka. Kat Grimes had 11 assists, and Natalie Castonguay had 10 digs.