Oakdale Volleyball

Oakdale’s Gabby Barth reacts after in the fifth set against Tuscarora last month. The Bears play Saturday for the Class 2A state title.

Oakdale (17-1) vs. Century (16-2)

n When: Noon, Saturday

n Where: Ritchie Coliseum, University of Maryland

n Road to final: Oakdale’s quest to return to the state tournament for the first time since 2017 looked like a realistic goal after the Bears, propelled by standout seniors Jess Twilley, Jen Chomiak and Sydney Katz, beat every team in the regular season except powerful Urbana. But then Katz, a four-year starter, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in their first playoff game against Walkersville. Undeterred, Oakdale plugged in Elise Smith and Jenna Harding as setters, saw them do a solid job despite their lack of experience in that role and went on to pull out a 3-2 win over defending state champ Williamsport. The Bears then notched sweeps against Sparrows Point in the 2A West final and La Plata in the state semis. Century, fueled by four-year starters Caroline Mastria and Ally Everton, was just as dominant during the regular season, when its only losses came to a mighty Westminster team that reached the 3A state semis. And the Knights have yet to lose a set this postseason, sweeping Winters Mill, Oakland Mills, Eastern Tech and — in the state semis — Rising Sun.

n Key players:

Oakdale—Jess Twilley, Sr., hitter (3.21 kills per set, 3.07 digs, .61 aces); Jen Chomiak, Sr., hitter (2.76 kills, 2.33 digs); Gabby Barth, So., libero (2.48 digs), Elise Smith, So., setter-opposite (1.16 kills, .48 blocks); Rosie Carlson, Jr., hitter (1.20 kills). Century—Caroline Mastria, Sr., outside hitter (3.14 kills); Ally Everton, Sr., libero (4.4 digs); Caroline Kennell, Sr., outside hitter (2.02 kills); Maria Acaron, Jr., middle hitter (1.94 kills); Eva Brandt, So., middle hitter (1.59 kills); Ali Whitworth, Sr., setter (7.69 assists, 1.25 kills); Mary Huber, Jr., right-side hitter (1.11 kills, 1.35 aces).

n Outlook: Both teams dominated all season and looked impressive in the state semifinals, so this has the makings of a grudge match. Some might be tempted to give Century the edge because Oakdale lost standout setter Sydney Katz to injury, but the Bears have coped well with that potentially devastating loss. If experience counts for anything, Oakdale has the edge. Twilley and Chomiak played in the 2017 state final, which the Bears won. Century, on the other hand, is playing in the state tournament for the first time since it won a state title in 2011. A key for the Bears will be stellar serving, which helped them cruise against La Plata in the state semis, a strong defensive showing against weapons like Caroline Mastria and typically dominant all-around games from Twilley and Chomiak.

—John Cannon

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