The big, bad block of Stockdale's volleyball team met its match Thursday night, and she was wearing No. 20 in red.
Centennial senior Cassidy George stood up to one of Kern County's most intimidating front lines in a 25-22, 19-25, 25-19, 25-23 Golden Hawks victory at Stockdale on Thursday, propelling Centennial to a 2-0 start in the rugged Southwest Yosemite League.
"It was huge," said George, who had 10 kills and 6 blocks. "This is their gym, where they beat us last year, and we wanted to come in and make it our place."
Stockdale's front line -- middle blockers Layne Dillingham and Lauren Cline and outside hitter Sophie Ralphs -- each finished with 4 blocks, but the Mustangs couldn't consistently dissaude the Centennial attack.
"It was not our best night," Stockdale coach Maria Collatz said. "I'm not sure what it was, but we never really did click. But Centennial is a good team, and they did a lot of good things."
Abby Campbell finished with 17 kills, and Brooke Horack added 7 for the Golden Hawks.
"Sometimes you just have to guess," Centennial coach Brooke Roberts said. "(Stockdale's blockers) are so good and they move around so much that you just have to move and stay as closed as possible."
The Golden Hawks (17-7, 2-0) jumped to a 24-15 lead in Game 1 and then had to hang on as Stockdale scored seven consecutive points. It appeared Campbell had hit an attack long that would have brought the Mustangs within a point, but referees ruled that a Stockdale player touched the ball before it went out, giving Centennial the game despite vehement arguments from the Mustangs.
"I still don't understand how they called it," Collatz said, "but that's not why we lost the game, anyway."
Stockdale (18-7, 1-1) rebounded in Game 2 and scored the first four points of Game 3, but Centennial controlled things from there. The Golden Hawks' back row made Stockdale work for everything, with Hannah Pope making 20 digs and Addy Peters, who also had 5 blocks, adding 17.
Cline led the Mustangs with 17 kills, and Dillingham had 15. Tatum Collatz, often left by herself on the back row, made 39 digs.
"It was an all-around effort for us, but it really was for both teams," Centennial coach Brooke Roberts said. "We both played pretty relentlessly, and we were both stunned a couple of times."
On this night, the Golden Hawks just seemed to recover faster. When Stockdale reeled off another late run in Game 4, scoring four straight points to force a 23-23 tie, Centennial scored the next two, with George killing an overpass on match point.
That last point was symbolic on a night when Stockdale's apparent advantage at the net never really materialized.
"I know those girls personally from (club volleyball)," George said, "so we know the way each other plays. It just makes it more intense. We knew coming in it would be tough, but we showed that our block and our defense is one of our strengths, too."
In a league that contains five top-tier Division I teams plus returning Division II semifinalist Independence, there is no time to celebrate, but Centennial knows that any 2-0 week is a good week.
"It really is," said Roberts, whose team plays Independence and Bakersfield next week. "It's huge. There's no rest. You can't get tired, mentally or emotionally."