Chargers hit wall at home

Chargers hit wall at home

CHAMPAIGN — For Taylor Swords, early results indicated Centennial volleyball is headed in a positive direction.

But matches like Thursday's Big 12 Conference opener versus Bloomington proved there's still work to be done.

A multi-pronged Purple Raiders attack proved too potent for the Chargers to handle in a 25-17, 25-21 setback.

It was the first match in five days for Centennial (4-5, 0-1 Big 12), which collected a 3-2 record at last weekend's Charger Invitational. That stretch included a victory over stout local foe Mahomet-Seymour.

Swords didn't see that same group of Chargers in Thursday's bout.

"I feel like we have played much better against other teams," the first-year Centennial coach said. "We normally come out with better blocks and better defense. So I was a little disappointed in how we did."

Seniors Avery Carr and Grace Sanders, both reigning All-Big 12 selections for Bloomington (9-0, 1-0), paired with seniors Leah Anderson and Lexi Packard to send kills screaming both past and off of Charger athletes.

Promsing moments from junior Kanay Benschneider on the attack and sophomore Leah Luchinski in the setting game didn't come nearly often enough for the hosts.

"Centennial played pretty well, especially second set," said 21-year Purple Raiders boss Joe Sanders. "It's possible we could see them this coming weekend at Crossroads (Classic in Effingham). So it's good to see them (now)."

The Chargers are on their fourth leader in as many seasons and haven't earned IHSA postseason hardware since 2013, so tests such as the one offered by Bloomington are useful for Swords moving forward.

"We have a lot of talks about what it's going to take to change Centennial volleyball and make it a strong program," Swords said. "It's just getting over that hump and ... working on those skills."

One thing Swords knows for sure after Thursday's loss: More fire is required.

"We are a huge mental game," Swords said. "If my girls come out pumped up and ready to play, we can look like an entirely different team."