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Despite lineup shuffling, Loudoun County keeps winning

By Jonas Shaffer,

Forget, for a moment, that the Loudoun County girls’ basketball team has lost only once this year. It’s not too difficult. Nothing but the end-of-game scorelines suggest this Raiders team is anything like last season’s 21-win outfit.

There are no seniors and only two juniors. There’s not much size, nor much hope for outrebounding opponents. There have been enough lineup changes to leave Coach Derek Fisher wondering just how many starting fives he’s had in 11 games. (It’s nine, he thinks.)

“You watch us and we don’t really play all that well,” Fisher said. And yet, he adds, “we’re able to make just enough plays.”

With a 10-1 record and perfect 7-0 mark in AA Dulles District play, Loudoun County is perhaps the surprise of the league’s early season. Even as seven graduated seniors made way for 11 freshmen and sophomores this year, the Raiders have won again and again, knocking off league title contenders like Heritage and Tuscarora.

With a Friday meeting against defending AA Division 3 state semifinalist Woodgrove (8-0, 7-1) looming, it won’t be long until the league has a clear front-runner. How that game will unfold, Fisher can only guess. He doesn’t even know who will start.

Only returning starter Maggie Phillips, a junior, and sophomore Chloe Knox have emerged as lineup regulars. The rest have to wait until practice the day before a game, when Fisher posts the team’s practice schedule and the list of “blue” and “white” players. Starters wear blue. Reserves wear white.

“They have to check every day,” Fisher said. “It’s almost like a baseball lineup to see if you’re in the batting order or not.”

Saturday’s 57-39 loss to Lake Braddock in the Lee Holiday Tournament was the first time all year the team had started the same five players in two straight games. And even in defeat, there weren’t many jitters. Instead, there were jumpers: Maddie Szoka, only a freshman, hit two three-pointers in the game’s first five minutes. If there are certain expectations for young players on young teams, the Raiders don’t much seem to care.

“The bottom line is, be ready,” Fisher said. “They all know that. They all know to be ready. And to their credit, they have been.”

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