|Centennial (20, 25, 25, 25)|
|Gresham (25, 18, 23, 14)|
When match point touched down Monday night some Centennial players fell to the floor, others jumped into the air. Tears were shed and hugs were shared.
"Several girls were crying after — it was a mix of excitement and relief," first-year Centennial coach Jared Johnson said. "Those seniors put some pressure on themselves. We never put 'winning a match' as a goal, but we knew we would have some opportunities."
This year's group of seniors were middle schoolers watching Phineas & Ferb the last time the Eagles' program won a Mount Hood Conference match — a stretch of six years that spanned 75 matches.
Centennial held an 18-15 lead late in the first set only to see Gresham rally to claim 10 of the next 12 points to gain the early upper hand.
"We don't have a lot of experience playing from ahead, but it's something we've worked on every day in practice," Johnson said. "These girls created goals and they push themselves every single day."
Centennial would hold the lead most of the rest of the way, evening the match by taking the second set 25-18, then turning the tide with a hard-fought 25-23 win. Gresham turned back three set points and had a chance to tie the score when Tupou Fononga rose up high and hammered a kill between the Gresham block to finish the set.
"We tell the girls to never stop swinging," Johnson said. "If Gresham takes game 3 that could have been a whole different match. But we stayed with our game plan, served tough and kept command of the match."
Centennial raced away early in the fourth set and enjoyed a double-digit margin by the end winning it 25-14.
Funonga led the team in kills Monday, while Angel Aluesi and Ellie Basinski were also forces in the front row and Bailey Becker finished the night as the defensive leader in digs.
Centennial finished the night with a 95-80 edge in points won.
This story is slated for our Friday, Sept. 13, print edition.
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