Centennial continues volleyball tradition

CHAMPAIGN — The players change. Some of the coaches are different.

One prominent part of the Centennial High School volleyball program remains constant as the years soar past a decade.

The Chargers are heading toward their 15th consecutive 20-win season in volleyball, a milestone that is especially significant after graduating nine seniors from a team that placed third at state last November.

Folks who thought this would be a rebuilding year are forced to do a re-evaluation.

“They were bound and determined that it wasn’t going to be that way,” coach Stan Bergman said. “They were more interested in proving that Centennial volleyball is still for real and that we’re still competitive.”

After sweeping Urbana on Thursday (25-14, 25-19) in a Volley for the Cure Match (proceeds going to the Susan G. Komen Foundation), Centennial’s varsity is 15-5. The JV is 12-2.

“Overall, they feel they have unfinished business,” Bergman said.

The Chargers wasted no time in taking control against an improved Urbana team (9-9).

In the first set, Miaya Peacock pounded a kill for the first point and then went to the service line, where she registered three consecutive aces.

Peacock is proud that the team is continuing to achieve.

“At first, it was frustrating, everyone doubting us,” she said. “We all came in thinking we’d be as good as we’ve been, thinking we can make it back to state.”

The postseason route won’t be easy, but it won’t require much traveling. The Class 3A regional will be at Central’s Combes Gym, and whichever school wins that will compete in a sectional at Centennial.

Despite the graduation losses of many key contributors, Bergman didn’t back off on the scheduling.

“Our schedule is packed with experienced and extremely competitive teams, and that pushes them to get better,” he said. “The teams we’ve lost to have been extremely talented. Our schedule is not outside the norm for anyone that wants to compete.”

The team leaves Friday for the two-day Chicago Latin Tournament.

Peacock landed eight kills and eight aces against the Tigers in a performance, Bergman said, in which “she exploded into air, doing what she’s normally doing.”

Ayla Dew had six kills, and setters Lexi Hall and Jaime Johnson each had nine assists. Jordin Hopkins led the defense with 11 digs, showing quick reflexes that Bergman said are hard to follow.

“I can’t even track the ball, and she has it up, even after a hard block,” he said.

His players, he said, “have their hearts in volleyball.” That is shown by the commitment many make at the club level.

“A lot of this (success) has to do with their offseason work,” Bergman said. “Plus, we still have some height (with Devin and Jasmine Kyler each 6 feet or taller).”

Another middle hitter, Kelly Braghini, had four kills and no hitting errors against Urbana. She’s another who’s benefited by continuing with the sport when the high school season ends.

“She pushes herself to train against the best, and she is hitting over .400 (efficiency),” Bergman said.

Two underclassmen led Urbana with three kills apiece: junior Kaitlyn Foulke and sophomore Brenna Swartz.

“Centennial is strong, and we’re getting there,” first-year Tigers coach Jackie Douglas said. “They’re starting to believe we can do things, yet that is still the same hurdle we have to jump.”
 

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