The Stone Bridge High School volleyball team is returning to Richmond for the third consecutive year after downing Albemarle, 25-16, 25-16, 25-14, in the Virginia AAA state quarterfinals Nov. 13 in Ashburn.
The Bulldogs now reach their apex from last season, where they fell to Floyd E. Kellam in state semifinals. Kellam also defeated Stone Bridge in the 2010 state championship match.
“We’re all a little nervous walking back in there,” Stone Bridge middle hitter Libby Haslett said. “But last year there were a lot of new people to the state court.”
The Bulldogs hope to use their previous experiences in Richmond to cultivate a “been there” attitude to assuage the pressure.
“I think it helps we’ve been down there before,” Stone Bridge coach Jill Raschiatore said. “I don’t think they’re going to be in awe of the atmosphere, which helps us a little bit.”
The host Stone Bridge (27-2) did not show any signs of nervousness in the quarterfinals.
The Patriots kept pace with the Bulldogs early, but a four-point run pulled Stone Bridge ahead 18-12. From there, Stone Bridge held Albemarle (29-2) to just four points while scoring the seven needed points to close out the set.
Albermarle again started strong in the second set, tying Stone Bridge at 9-9. But the Bulldogs went on an 8-2 run, dominating the offense with well-placed serves and vicious spikes from Haslett and Liberty District Player of the Year Ryan Ackermann.
“I get really fired up when I play,” Haslett said. “I want to make a difference on the court. Every time before I play, I say in my head ‘what can I do to make a difference on the court?’”
The Patriots seemed fatigued by set three and the Bulldogs capitalized, taking a large lead early and maintaining it throughout. Stone Bridge lengthened its lead with a five-point run - coordinated by Shannon Williams at the service line - to go ahead 21-10 and easily held on to win the set 25-14.
Haslett controlled the middle, notching 14 kills, a total matched by outside hitter Ackermann. Williams added nine kills of her own. Cydney Gill contributed 33 assists and libero Sarah Fairchild totaled 18 digs.
The Bulldogs are headed back to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond - site of the state semifinals and championship matches. Stone Bridge will face Central Region champion Atlee in the semifinals Nov. 15 at 5 p.m.
“It’s exciting going to VCU,” Haslett said. “This is what we’ve worked for all year.”
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