When Stone Bridge took to the court for its last regular-season home volleyball match Oct. 23 in Ashburn, the Bulldogs focused on two objectives: honor their seniors and defeat Thomas Jefferson.
For the first goal, seniors Ryan Ackermann, Kelly Stancik, Mackenzie Reilly, Mariah Brantley and Kendall Schulte were escorted onto the court by their proud parents and were presented with flowers and gifts from the rest of the team as tokens of appreciation.
With task one completed during the opening ceremonies, the Bulldogs quickly silenced the Colonials in straight sets, 25-13, 25-11, 25-14, to improve to 21-0 on the season with just one match remaining.
“We definitely want to win this last game so we can be 22-0,” Ackermann said. “It’d be great.”
Tuesday’s win, coupled with Langley’s 3-1 loss to Fairfax the same night, secured the top seed for Stone Bridge in the Liberty District tournament, set to begin Oct. 29.
After Thomas Jefferson earned the first point of the match with a service ace, the Bulldogs reeled off five straight points. While the Colonials managed to stay within six points most of the set, another extended Stone Bridge run, led by Schulte at the service line, helped the Bulldogs pull away and win the opening set 25-13.
Stone Bridge jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the second set and pushed the advantage to as high as 14 points on its way to building a 2-0 lead.
Bulldogs coach Jill Raschiatore rested several starters in the third set, including Ackermann, the reigning Northern Region Player of the Year.
The Colonials offered some resistance early, pulling even at 1-1, 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6, before Stone Bridge produced runs of 5-0 and 7-0 to take control at 18-9. Libero Sarah Fairchild closed out the match with consecutive service points.
Ackermann led the offensive strike in the match, notching 11 kills and Shannon Williams and Libby Haslett added five and six respectively. Stancik contributed 14 assists and Cydney Gill dished 10. Fairchild led in digs with 11.
Ultimately, Raschiatore said all her players contributed to the team’s 21st victory. Stone Bridge concludes the regular season Oct. 25 at Langley.
“It’s very nice to be undefeated, but honestly we’re not trying to think about that,” Raschiatore said. “We’re trying to keep focus on the next opponent, whoever that is.”
Though Raschiatore has tried to keep her girls focused on the immediate match, she finally gave in to discussing a state tournament run.
The Bulldogs are eager to return to the state playoffs for a third consecutive year. Stone Bridge is seeking its first state championship after falling to Kellam each of the past two years, first in the 2010 state final and then again in 2011 state semifinals.
“We decided to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” Raschiatore noted. “There’s a goal in mind at the end, but you can’t focus on it yet. We still have things to do.”
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