RICHMOND — Back in August, Loudoun County volleyball Coach Jenica Brown introduced the Raiders to the self-help classic from John Wooden, “Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life.” The girls were given weekly homework assignments, and as they piled up the wins, they became well-versed in the legendary UCLA basketball coach’s philosophy.
When the top-ranked Raiders lost their first set since Sept. 10 in Saturday’s four-set win over Jamestown for the Virginia 4A title, they turned to Wooden, according to Loudoun County senior Mandy Powers.
“One of the qualities that the book says athletes need to have is trust,” said Powers, who had 35 assists in the win. “We have so much trust and faith in each that we knew even if we dropped a couple points here and there we could make it up.”
The Raiders (30-0) bounced back from the second-set loss in a big way, closing out the third set on a 17-4 en route to a 25-20, 23-25, 25-12, 25-23 win at Siegel Center.
The Raiders got a tremendous boost off the bench from Olivia Aycock, who had 12 kills, a team high for the Raiders and a season high for the junior. Brown inserted her in the second set because the Eagles (27-2) hadn’t seen much of her on film and the substitution paid dividends.
“Jamestown hadn’t seen the Olivia hitting role as much,” Brown said. “We knew it was probably going to be needed but we wanted to see how long before we needed it. When we did it, it threw everybody off.”
The championship was the Raiders’ sixth in seven years, and their first undefeated season since 2007. They have won 49 straight matches.
Seniors Maggie Phillips and Kelsey Slack both posted a team-high 15 digs and Phillips added nine kills.
“One thing I said to the girls prior to the match is that we worked hard all season and this is our reward,” Powers said. “It’s just so awesome to have a great coach and great players, it’s a team of 18 and we push each other so hard.”