State champions: Raiders complete strive for five
Loudoun County has produced a sparkling 191-11 record over the last seven seasons, including a 60-3 mark in postseason play.
2012: 28-1, State champions
2011: 27-2, State semifinalists
2010: 28-1, State champions
2009: 26-3, State champions
2008: 27-1, State champions
2007: 28-0, State champions
2006: 27-3, State finalists
With the Loudoun County High School volleyball team just four points away from defeating Hidden Valley and capturing the 2012 Virginia AA state championship Nov. 16 in Richmond, the “Raider Riot,” a loyal contingent of student fans began chanting.
“Strive for five! Strive for five!”
Loudoun County delivered. After a 3-1 run put the Raiders at match point, Maggie Phillips ended the decisive fifth set with an exclamation point, slamming a kill to help the Raiders earn their fifth state title in six years.
A Loudoun County victory seemed unlikely midway through the title match. After storming into the Siegel Center and taking the first set 25-22 and then taking an early lead in the second set, the Raiders began to flounder. Three aces from Hidden Valley’s Sarah Gray helped the Titans go on a 7-0 run and ultimately win set two 25-20. County continued to struggle with its serve-return and the deflated Raiders dropped set three 25-21.
“I think the first set we had a lot of confidence and played to the pace of the game that we chose,” Phillips said. “Once we started getting down the second and third game, we just let them dictate every aspect.”
But the Raiders came roaring back in the fourth set, overcoming a six-point deficit, to win the set 25-21.
Loudoun County took a quick 4-0 lead in the deciding set, but Hidden Valley answered with a 5-1 run to keep the game in its sight. The squads traded points as both sides could see victory in their clutches.
A final 4-1 run by Loudoun County would cap off the match and prove to be Hidden Valley’s undoing.
The state title marks another successful season for Loudoun County, who posted a 28-1 record, losing only to the Group AAA Stone Bridge, who fell in state semifinals this year. Since that loss on Oct. 1, the Raiders won 18 straight matches, picking up Dulles District season and tournament titles, along with the Region II championship along the way.
But after falling in state semifinals last year to Cave Spring, the girls knew they wouldn’t be satisfied until the hung yet another state championship banner.
“I’ve never seen a team want it more,” said County libero Kelsey Slack, who had 19 digs and eight service points in the final. “This team compared to last year’s is so different. Every single person on this team, whether they played or not, wanted it.”
Loudoun County coach Jenica Brown knew that some adjustments had to be made in order to ensure her team reached its goal. Players couldn’t just excel at their natural strengths - they had to improve at all their weaknesses.
“The biggest goal of this team from last year was not to take anything for granted, to work just as hard to get better,” Brown said. “They couldn’t come out here and do the things they did great. They had to come out here and do the things good that are their weaknesses.”
The girls responded positively, taking the advice and practice to heart. It showed. The Raiders dropped just six sets during the regular season.
Still, the girls kicked up the intensity in the week leading up to practice in a quest for the title.
“We knew that we didn’t want to have any regrets going into this weekend,” Huewe added. “Every practice leading up to this game, we pushed our hardest.”
Huewe led the team in kills, notching 26 while adding 10 digs. Setter Megan Fox earned all but five of the Raiders’ assists, totaling 53 over the course of the match.
“I’m not really sure how Megan does it,” Phillips said. “All of our hitters are so different and we all need different things. We’re all begging her for different things, but she’s calm, dictates the offense.”
Phillips had a successful offensive game of her own, recording 17 kills and 13 digs in the final match, including the decisive final kill.
With the 2012 championship, the Raiders now have a 191-11 record in the past seven years, collecting five state titles, seven regional titles, six district tournament titles and seven regular-season titles.
Winning is just what they strive for.
Loudoun County Raiders
-All photos by Patrick Kane
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