Volleyball: Damascus weathers tough stretch

October 24, 2012

As recently as two weeks ago, the Damascus volleyball team was flying high.

The Hornets were undefeated, ranked seventh in The Post Top 10 and had dropped just six sets in nine matches headed into the toughest stretch of their regular season schedule. Since then, the Hornets have been swept in three of their last four matches by teams at the top of the Montgomery County standings.

The skid began Oct. 10 with a three-set road loss at No. 8 Magruder and continued a week later with another three-set loss, this time at home, against No. 9 Walter Johnson. The Hornets dropped their third match of the season Tuesday night against top-ranked Sherwood.

Damascus Coach Becky Ronquillo said the skid has been the result of a slew of injuries finally catching up to the Hornets. The Hornets have had six players, four of them starters, miss significant time at various points throughout the season.

Junior Madison Wyatt has dealt with shin splints for nearly the entire season while senior outside hitter Annika Schwartz has missed time for a severely sprained thumb. Alex Nelligan, a junior middle blocker, dealt with a concussion earlier this season while Kayla Abernethy, another outside hitter, has been seeing a chiropractor every other day for a bad back. Ronquillo said that with all the injuries, she hasn’t started the same lineup in back-to-back games yet this season.

“It’s been a rough few weeks,” Ronquillo said. “That does shake them up. It definitely jars their confidence, but I think they’re also smart enough to know that we played against good players. They’re good teams. . . . It’s not like we lost to teams we shouldn’t have lost to.”

Ronquillo said that while the skid has cost her team the considerable momentum it had built up through the first two thirds of the season, playing such strong competition late in the season could end up as a blessing in disguise for the Hornets as they prepare to head into the playoffs. Still, with one game left in the regular season Ronquillo said she’s still searching for ways to help the Hornets get their swagger back.

“I’ve tried a lot. I’ve tried critiquing them. I’ve tried positive reinforcement,” she said. “We’re still trying to figure out how to motivate them. How do you get that will, that drive, that hunger? Every day I always wonder how I can do it, light it up more than I did before.”

Around Northern Virginia

With a sweep of Jefferson on Tuesday and Langley’s loss at Fairfax, No. 2 Stone Bridge locked up its fifth consecutive Virginia AAA Liberty District title. Since the 2008 season, the Bulldogs have not lost a match against a league foe, and that success has translated to the Northern Region tournament, where the team will attempt to defend its consecutive titles next month.

South County has already wrapped up the top seed in the Patriot District and Yorktown clinched at least a share of the National District title with a sweep of Mount Vernon on Monday. There is no such clarity in the Concorde where Robinson hosts Oakton in Thursday’s regular season finale with the top seed in next week’s district tournament on the line. The Rams (9-10, 3-1) swept Herndon on Tuesday while the Cougars (15-9, 3-1), who have struggled in the second half of the season, picked up a key win against Westfield to remain in the title hunt.

Loudoun County clinched its seventh straight AA Dulles District crown last Thursday with a 3-1 win against Briar Woods. The victory earned the third-ranked Raiders a berth in the Region II tournament, which begins Nov. 5. Loudoun County won its eighth straight match on Tuesday with a 3-1 victory over Dominion.

The Post Top 10

Walter Johnson will host Sherwood Thursday night in the regular season finale for both teams... Holy Cross has won nine straight since its 2-1 loss in the final of Flint Hill’s tournament. The Crusaders have dropped only one set in that span... Magruder dropped its first set in the month of October last Thursday in a 3-1 win over Poolesville.

(Records through Tuesday)

1. Sherwood (13-0) Last week: 1

2. Stone Bridge (21-0), LW: 2

3. Loudoun County (18-1) LW: 3

4. Centennial (13-0) LW: 4

5. Flint Hill (24-2) LW: 5

6. Holy Cross (22-1) LW: 6

7. Arundel (13-0) LW: 7

8. Magruder (18-0) LW: 8

9. Walter Johnson (14-0) LW: 9

10. South County (19-5) LW: 10

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