Virginia AAA volleyball final
Loudoun Valley tops South County for Virginia AAA volleyball title
RICHMOND -- South County stormed into the Virginia AAA final Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center with two tall, powerful hitters leading the way. And through the opening set, Loudoun Valley struggled to find openings to put the ball past the Stallions' front-line duo of Simone Antwi and Lindsay Stephens.
But after dropping the first set, the Vikings refocused on serving aggressively, a strategy that provided an instant spark and disrupted the Stallions' attack. Loudoun Valley captured the momentum by taking the second set and used a balanced attack to close out its fourth state title in 10 years -- and first at the AAA level -- 19-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-22.
"We had to serve more aggressively," Loudoun Valley Coach Laird Johnson said. "We felt like if we could get them out of their passing from the back line to the front, then they weren't going to be able to get the ball to [Antwi] as often as possible."
The 6-foot-2 Antwi was a force in the middle during the opening set, pounding down vicious kills and forcing the Vikings (23-5) to hit over and around her. Stephens was just as big a factor early, providing big kills on the outside and serving effectively. But the tide turned in the in the second set as Loudoun Valley's back line adjusted to the slower pace of the South County attack.
"We had to really wait and set ourselves and we really had to read the arm swing, which we struggled with a little in the first game," senior libero Kristen Martin said. "But the blockers were getting the strong blocks up there and we were able to read it a little bit better as the day went on."
Senior outside hitter Morgan Clark led the way with 11 kills and senior middle hitter Lindsey Phipps added nine as Loudoun Valley showed its experience with solid serving and poise down the stretch. Stephens had 19 kills to lead the Stallions (25-4) and Antwi added 16 for the first South County team in any sport to reach a state final.
"I feel like we have done so much with what we were given," Stephens said. "I couldn't be happier. Second in the state is amazing."
After a first-round loss in the 2008 state tournament, the Vikings reached their 2009 goal of adding another state championship banner to the school's rafters.
"We wanted to be that team to bring home that banner," said Phipps, one of the team's six seniors. "All the seniors went into tonight saying, 'This is our last time playing high school ball. Let's bring it home.'"