As New Kent chipped away at Loudoun County’s third-set lead during Tuesday’s Virginia AA quarterfinal, the Raiders’ student section grew louder and louder, chanting the three letters that encompassed Loudoun County’s mission since having its string of four state titles snapped last year.
The Raiders quickly responded with 10 kills to turn a one-point lead into a third-set victory and a 25-12, 25-16, 25-17 sweep of New Kent in Loudoun, punching their ticket to Friday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal against E.C. Glass at VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond.
Taylor Huewe registered a team-high 11 kills while Maggie Phillips added nine kills, 11 digs and 20 service points to pace a Raiders attack that started strong in each set. After easily winning the first set, Jane Feddersen sparked a 7-0 run to begin the second by nailing two of her seven kills on the night and keeping the Trojans off balance near the net.
In the third set the Raiders (26-1) again jumped out to an early lead, but the Trojans fought back and cut the deficit to 11-10, giving Loudoun County a chance to show its resolve.
“Sometimes you can get so set on working on your strengths, so we’ve made a point to always be working on something new and improving our weaknesses so that when a team threatens us, we always have something to go back to,” Raiders Coach Jenica Brown said.
On this night, the Raiders fell back on sound passing and stout defense at the net. A Phillips kill capped an 8-0 run and gave the Raiders all the cushion they needed to secure their 16th consecutive win. And perhaps more importantly, the Raiders are back in the state semis.
“It’s a somewhat different mind-set not playing as the defending champion, but like every season we began with the goal of winning state, and we practice and play with that in mind,” Huewe said. “But we don’t go out expecting anything. Tonight, I thought we played well against a tough team.”
Also returning to the state semifinals will be Stone Bridge, which beat Albemarle in straight sets 25-16, 25-16, 25-14 in a Virginia AAA state quarterfinal match in Ashburn. Stone Bridge Coach Jill Raschiatore applauded the play of Libby Haslett, whose strong showing in the middle forced Albemarle to make adjustments, which opened up outside spots for her teammates.
“We controlled the ball and the tempo and really spread the ball around well,” said Raschiatore, whose team will play Atlee at 5 p.m. on Thursday at the Siegel Center. “If we can keep playing like that, I like our chances going forward.”
Playing in the other AAA semifinal will be Langley, which rallied back to defeat Patrick Henry-Roanoke 25-27, 25-22, 25-20, 27-25 on the road. In what Saxons Coach Sue Shifflett jokingly called a “very stressful” match, Langley overcame a slow start behind Alex Andrejev’s 17 kills — and a few well-timed movie references.
“Our 2007 team was all into the movie ‘300’, so we showed the girls that movie on the way down to [Tuesday’s] game. I also had some quotes written out that I used during timeouts, and I guess it helped,” Shifflett said. “After we lost the first game, they didn’t let it get to them. The girls recovered and had probably one of their best blocking games all season.”
Langley will play two-time defending state champ Kellam at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Richmond.