Virginia volleyball: W.T. Woodson tops Langley for first state tournament berth

For four years W.T. Woodson senior Rachel Conway toiled away, hoping to one day get a chance to reach the Virginia state volleyball tournament.

When that chance came on Thursday night in a Northern Region semifinal matchup with Langley, there was no way she was going to let it pass her by.

After rallying from a two-sets-to-one deficit, Conway and the Cavaliers coughed up an early fifth-set lead. But Conway’s setting and serving, coupled with a pair ferocious kills from fellow senior Jorden Jackson propelled Woodson to victory and its first state tournament berth, 13-25, 25-17, 18-25, 25-18, 25-9.

“We’ve wanted this for so long and we came in this gym knowing we would win,” said Conway, who finished with 24 assists and seven kills. “We’ve come from behind countless times this season, and we just know how to deal with the pressure and put it all on the court.”

For Langley, which edged the Cavaliers in five sets on Sept. 24, it was a second straight heartbreaking, five-set defeat in the semifinals.

The Cavaliers (25-3) will face defending region champions Stone Bridge in Saturday’s final at Centreville.

In the first semifinal, Stone Bridge continued its recent run of dominance with a 25-18, 25-18, 25-22 sweep of Yorktown. The Bulldogs have won 41 consecutive sets and 18 straight matches.

Northern Region player of the year Ryan Ackermann had 16 kills and senior setter Kristen Jones tallied 26 assists to lead Stone Bridge’s attack, one of the most balanced in the area.

The Bulldogs (26-2) reached the state final one year ago, but this will be the first taste of the tournament for most of the team’s young, revamped roster.

“I’ve never experienced this before, so it’s very exciting,” said sophomore libero Sarah Fairchild (10 digs). “We’re trying to do everything we can to get back to Richmond and win a title this year.”

One year after advancing to the AA state quarterfinals for the first time, Freedom-South Riding earned a spot in the AAA state field with a 25-16, 25-19, 25-17 sweep of North Stafford in a Northwest Region semifinal. Senior setter Kaitlyn LaMantia had 16 assists to lead the Eagles (23-5), who get Patrick Henry-Roanoke in the final.

In AA Region II, second-ranked Loudoun County moved one step closer to a sixth straight region title with a 25-12, 25-12, 25-22 sweep of James Wood. Jenna Strange (10 kills), Maggie Phillips (11) and Jordan Leiter (35 assists) led the Raiders (25-1) who will face Western Albemarle — a 25-23, 25-23, 25-14 winner over Potomac Falls — in Saturday’s final.

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