On Wednesday, Stone Bridge senior Shannon Williams served her third game as captain for the third-ranked Bulldogs. On the other side of the net she faced a senior-laden Loudoun County team with a 49-game winning streak and one of the loudest student sections in the area.
Williams, a 2013 All-Met, was a wide-eyed sophomore when the Bulldogs handed the Raiders their last defeat on Oct. 1, 2012. On this night the Bulldogs played spoiler, and bounced back from a pedestrian first set to defeat top-ranked Loudoun County in five sets, 14-25, 25-18, 26-24, 20-25, 15-10.
The matchup lived up to its expectations as the two rivals traded kills and miraculous digs for just over two hours. But it looked like the Bulldogs (3-0) were going to be swept off the floor after the first set.
“We were just very flat that entire time,” Stone Bridge Coach Jill Raschiatore said of the first set. “We weren’t passing the ball, we weren’t setting well and we weren’t hitting well. Instead of being intense we were just tense.”
The following two sets the Bulldogs calmed their nerves and rode the adrenaline to take full advantage of the match. Loudoun County (1-1) had lost just two sets all of last season, and in the second game of the year they found themselves a set away from elimination.
But the six-time state champions got a big boost from junior North Carolina commit Taylor Borup in the fourth set. The 6-foot-3 standout slammed eight or her 16 kills at the Bulldogs’ defense to seemingly take control of the match.
Junior libero Abby DeVido had the job of dealing with Borup and a highly skilled Loudoun County attack. In just her third career start at the position, DeVido posted 15 digs, two in a wild volley stretch where she went to the floor to keep the Raiders at bay.
“Taylor Borup definitely has really good arm swings and cuts, they’re really an unpredictable team,” DeVido said. “We tried to put blocks on them and if not I tried to read where their arm was going and put my body in front of the ball.”
The final set saw the teams tie nine times and left the squads deadlocked at nine points apiece. But the Bulldogs banded together to outscore Loudoun County 6-1 to end the Raiders’ area-best winning streak.
Williams (19 kills) scored the final two points on a kill that ricocheted off the floor and a game-winning block that led her teammates to rush the floor in elation.
“That was the best feeling ever,” Williams said. “My blocking had actually been poor because I wasn’t going over. That was the best point ever to get the final block.”