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Hanna and the Raiders make their final point

By Matt Brooks
Sunday, November 22, 2009

RICHMOND -- Loudoun County senior Juliane Hanna soared through the air, hammered home a kill on the opening point of Saturday's AA Virginia state final against Grafton and let out a roar as she celebrated with her teammates. From the opening serve to seldom-used junior setter Colleen Bowlds's block on match point, the Raiders methodically and efficiently dismantled their previously undefeated opponents, rolling to a 25-17, 25-12, 25-10 victory for a third consecutive state championship.

The Raiders (26-3), who just 19 hours earlier were forced to come from behind to defeat Cave Spring in a five-set semifinal, built an 8-0 lead in the second game and began the third on a 10-0 run to overwhelm a thoroughly overmatched Clippers team, which finished 28-1.

"Today I knew that any team could win it," Hanna said. "But you can't beat a team that is mentally prepared for you, you can't. I knew that if we came out mentally stronger than them and just fired up and keep yelling and keep screaming, there's no way that they could jump on us. We jumped on them and you could tell, they were pretty tired and we were like, 'Okay, we'll be the voice, then.' And I think that's what got us going."

Hanna, the lone holdover from the last Raiders team to lose in a state final in 2006, showed why she was named Region II player of the year, finishing with 17 kills and three aces and firing up her teammates all afternoon. Together with senior hitters Molly Baldwin and Emily Vandegrift and sophomores Jenna Strange and Erin Dancy, Loudoun County's front line was too big and too strong for the Clippers.

"I felt like we knew everything they were going to do today before they did it," Loudoun County Coach Jarod Brown said. "We knew their hitters' tendencies, we knew where they wanted to go with the ball and that just helps your defense out so much."

Senior setter Robin Marsala was a fixture at the service line, keying both runs to start the final two games. She had a pair of timely dumps for winners in the opening game and finished with 21 serves and 28 assists to help the Raiders become the first AA team to win three consecutive state titles.

"We've won the last three state championships and obviously that speaks for itself," Marsala, one of five graduating seniors, said. "But we feel like the younger players have a part of us that we left and we have a part of the other seniors that left. Each year you leave something behind."

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