Loudoun County High School welcomed Stone Bridge to its home court Oct. 1 for a dream matchup of two undefeated volleyball teams and the sizable crowd that turned out in Leesburg was not disappointed. The fans were treated to an entertaining well-played five-set match captured by the Bulldogs as they rallied from a two-set deficit to defeat the Raiders.
Stone Bridge (14-0 overall) not only came back from the two-set hole, but trailed 6-1 in the fifth set before nipping Loudoun County (10-1) for the 18-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-13 win.
“I just aged 10 years,” joked Stone Bridge coach Jill Raschiatore after the match that pitted two of the top teams, not only in Loudoun, but in all of Virginia with Loudoun County having won four straight AA state titles (2007-10) before falling in last year’s state semifinals and Stone Bridge having advanced to the AAA state Final Four the past two years.
The fifth set was a snapshot of the entire evening as Loudoun County, which came into the match having won 30 of 31 sets played, jumped out to a quick lead behind booming senior outside hitter Taylor Huewe (team-high 20 kills) but saw Stone Bridge scratch its way back into the match with senior outside hitter Ryan Ackermann (26 kills, 20 digs) catching fire with five straight kills and then a block to put the Bulldogs up 10-7.
“This is like our biggest match of the season, we were beyond excited before the game,” said Ackermann.
The key to the swing in the match was a lineup adjustment made midway through the evening and it put Bulldog senior Libby Haslett (20 kills) in position to play the hero as she had two early kills in the fifth set when Stone Bridge desperately needed to stop the Raiders from running away with the win. Haslett then finished off the victory with two kills when the score was tied 13-13.
“We were really upset after losing the first two sets. We knew we didn’t want to walk out of here defeated,” said Haslett.
Raschiatore called Haslett the type of player that enjoys the pressure and that she “would rather be challenged.”
Haslett echoed that saying that pounding opponents in straight sets wins was fine but Monday’s atmosphere was “a lot more intense, a lot more fun.”
Both coaches, after a season of mostly easy 3-0 wins, were able to get a gut check on their squads.
“I told the team after the game that it wasn’t like I didn’t have faith in you before but I have so much more now,” said Rashciatore.
Defense was crucial in the contest with a pair of sparkling performances from the libero position as Stone Bridge senior Sarah Fairchild had a whopping 42 digs and Loudoun County junior Kelsey Slack had 19.
“Fatigue set in, mental focus and Stone Bridge came out and made adjustments against our defense,” said Loudoun County coach Jenica Brown in response to the Raiders inability to close out the win. “I felt like we had control at times, but couldn’t keep control.”
Setters on both sides likely will have weary arms the rest of the week as Stone Bridge junior Cydney Gill set a school record with 69 assists and Loudoun County senior Megan Fox, an all-around threat, had 40 assists to go with 14 kills and four blocks.
Also for Stone Bridge, senior Mariah Brantley had eight kills, 27 digs and three aces and sophomore Shannon Williams had 12 kills. Loudoun County spread its offense around to junior Maggie Phillips (10 kills), senior Rachel Roberts (9 kills), senior Quinn O’Connell (nine kills) and junior Jane Feddersen (seven kills).
-Dan “Spike” Sousa is the http://www.VivaLouduon.com editor.
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