Loudoun County reaches Virginia AA volleyball state final

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By Matt Brooks
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, November 20, 2010; 1:00 AM

RICHMOND - In 2006, Loudoun County advanced to its first Virginia AA state final only to have its dream season end in a sweep at the hands of Cave Spring. Since that match, the Raiders had not lost in the playoffs heading into Friday's state semifinal at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center. Their opponent? None other than Cave Spring.

Early on it appeared that the Knights might have enough defense to replicate last year's five-set semifinal classic between the two teams, but after a service error gave Loudoun County the opening set, the Raiders took control. With dominant serving - including a 9-0 run late in the second set - Loudoun County found the form that has produced three straight state championships and moved one win away from a fourth with a 25-23, 25-18, 25-16 sweep.

The Knights (21-6) posted four blocks and an ace to take a 3-0 lead at the start of the match, but the Raiders settled in and after watching five set points vanish, benefitted from a serve into the net to claim the opener.

"After last year's semifinal match, which was probably one of the most intense matches that I've played in my entire career, we knew they were going to come back not wanting that to happen again," senior Kathleen Horvath said. "They wanted us to go down but we wanted it just as badly to go our way."

Loudoun County fell behind once again in the second but junior Jordan Leiter reeled off eight straight service points to turn a 17-14 deficit into a 22-17 advantage. From there, the Raiders (27-1) spread an active Cave Spring defense thin with a variety of hitters attacking from all over the court.

Five different Raiders recorded at least five kills with juniors Katrina Kirby (nine) and senior Rachel Arigo (eight) leading the way. But it was Loudoun County's dominance at the service line that kept the Knights off-balance and on their heels all night as five Raiders combined for 12 aces, led by Horvath's five.

"We really just have to come together as a team after every point to keep the intensity up," Leiter said. "It's not about the ace, it's about putting the ball in where they can't get it."

Since that state final loss in 2006, the Raiders are 105-5 overall and will look for win number 106 in Saturday's final against Grafton, which beat Hidden Valley in four sets. It's the third time in four years that the teams will meet with the state title on the line.

"It is intense in order to be able to be here," Raiders' Coach Jenica Matthias said. "You have to be able to create that intense and aggressive atmosphere with your players so they develop confidence in themselves to play at a high level."

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