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Volleyball: Knights go to Century to “slay an ogre”

In a battle right out of the Middle Ages, Varsity Volleyball will take on a Century team that, as far as ogres go, has nothing on Shrek.

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The Middletown High School Knights Varsity Volleyball will head to Century High School tonight to take on the Century High School Knights, in what could be an early season test for Middletown.

Century (0-1) was the 2011 2A State Champiosnhip and although they lost in the 2A West Region Quarterfinal last year, they still have a potent offense including sophomore outside hitter Riley Forquer, who had 15 kills against Williamsport, and junior setter Hailey Thrift who had 28 assists and 10 kills.

In Century’s first game, they took on the defending 2A State Champions, the Williamsport High School Wildcats, and played down up to the last point losing the match 2 sets to 3 (20-25, 18-25, 25-23, 25-20, 13-15).

Century’s brightest moment as a volleyball program came in 2011 with a 2A State Championship which saw them only lose four sets during the entire span of the playoff run.

That state championship run included a 3-0 win against Middletown in the 2011 2A West Regional Final. That was after Middletown had shocked the Maryland volleyball world by defeating regional heavyweights Williamsport and Winters Mill.

Back then, Middletown had stars such as Bree Strube, and even before that Ashley Higgenbothem, and Mattie Smith.

Last year, though Middletown seemed to be lacking the chemistry and focus that came with the teams of the past.

MHS senior Samantha Higgenbothem put it best when she said, “The team has better chemistry the last year.”

“We are all more focused and are more unified as a team and not in cliques like last year,” said Higgenbothem, who is the only member of the team who was on the roster for the loss to Century back in 2011.

Higgenbothem was also on the team for Middletown’s 2010 loss to Century in the 2A West Regional Semifinal, this time a 3-2 loss to Century.

Higgenbothem also used the experience of being on the Varisty team freshman year with her older sister and now Charleston Southern University volleyball player Ashley Higgenbothem, to influence her play.

The younger Higgenbothem put it best in describing her sister when she said, “I strive to be like her on the court.”

These playoff losses created a rivalry between the two teams, with games usually becoming emotional, tense contests with both teams giving it all on the court.

Century played up this emotional rivalry by installing a picture of an ogre in the visiting team room, hoping to make an impression on the psyche of the visiting team but especially Middletown.

Middletown used it as the fuel for their fire, tapping the ogre as they ran out of the locker room, and referring to Century as the Ogres to avoid using the Knights name for both teams.

“It got us fired up about (the game) because we were sick of them beating us and looking down on us as if they were inferior to us,” said Higgenbothem.

Middletown (0-1) is looking to bounce back after a loss to North Hagerstown in the season opener that saw them go down in straight sets.

The game was not without positives for the Knights, as they took a Hubs team that won a 3A State Championship last year to the brink of losing sets in Sets 1 and 3 but could not get that final boost of energy they needed.

“We have a sense of confidence because we beat (Century) last year and we are playing well so far,” said Higgenbothem, one of the Middletown captains.

The playoff atmosphere from tonight’s game will give the good Knights a chance to take down a major opponent that they could see again during playoffs and give them a boost of momentum that the Knight will need.

The Middletown Knights JV Volleyball team will be looking to also gain momentum as they take on Century at 5:15 today.

Middletown has struggled with consistency over the past couple of years as new head coach Emily Adams is their third new head coach in three years.

Adams looks to right a JV program that has appeared to be headed in the wrong direction as the Knights record has fluctuated a large bit over the past years.

Middletown will look to turn their luck around after a loss to North Hagerstown in two straight sets that saw them get overwhelmed by a Hubs team that hit the ball hard and hit the ball well.

Unfortunately Middletown will get no reprieve as Century has three sophomore outside hitters and bring the power from both sides of the court and has stealthy ball placement from the back of the court.

Middletown will be on a slight bit of a learning curve as out of the twelve players on the team 8 of them are freshmen.

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Volleyball: Knights go to Century to “slay an ogre”