The Stone Bridge Bulldogs stood tall during pivotal moments of each set on their way to a 25-20, 25-19, 25-22 victory over Mills Godwin in the Virginia Class 5 volleyball quarterfinals Nov. 13 in Ashburn.
Facing a strong challenge from Mills Godwin in each set, Stone Bridge won points at crucial times throughout the match to earn a spot in the state semifinals.
"That's been our thing, we just don't get rattled," Stone Bridge head coach Jill Raschiatore said. "I don't know how many times this year we've been down 2-0 and we just find a way to stay calm and keep battling. They are so fun to work with because they continue to stay focused and dig deep when it counts."
Propelled by the strong serving of junior Allison Gardner, Stone Bridge jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first set. Mills Godwin trimmed the deficit to one on two occasions in the opening set, only to see Stone Bridge senior Sophia Denayer and sophomore Lilah Stevens deliver kills to keep the Bulldogs on top.
Stone Bridge faced a pair of one-point deficits early in the second set before reeling off five straight points. Trailing 13-6, Mills Godwin scored five consecutive points to pull within two. Following a timeout, Stone Bridge responded with a 4-1 surge to regain control of the set.
The Bulldogs trailed for a majority of the third set before making a late charge. Down 20-18, Stone Bridge scored seven of the next nine points to win the third set and complete the sweep.
After outlasting opponents in five sets three times during the postseason, Stone Bridge has won its last two matches in straight sets.
"We have a young team and they have bought into just improving every day as a goal," Raschiatore said. "They just keep working hard and we've played better the last month of the season than we did the first two months, so that's critical. As long as they keep fighting like that, we have a shot."
The Potomac District and Region 5C champion Bulldogs are two wins away from claiming a second state title in program history. Stone Bridge will host Patrick Henry-Roanoke in the Class 5 semifinals Nov. 16.
"It's a good feeling just to be [in the state playoffs] but I know they have goals and dreams higher than that," Raschiatore said of her players. "We are going to maintain the same thing we've done all year of one match at a time. We'll focus on [the state semifinal match] Tuesday and go from there."