By Matt Brooks
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, November 21, 2010; 12:41 AM
RICHMOND - Each of the last four years Loudoun County began its season with new, often inexperienced, personnel striving to fill the void left by a handful of graduated seniors. But while the faces change from season to season, the production remains consistent for a team that has established itself as the gold standard for Virginia volleyball.
Saturday at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center, the Raiders etched the latest chapter in their dynasty, using near-flawless serving, big hitting and gritty defense to steamroll Grafton in straight sets and claim their fourth consecutive AA state title, 25-16, 25-18, 25-16.
In a near carbon-copy of last year's final in which Loudoun County quickly and efficiently swept the Clippers, the Raiders opened with a flurry of aces and used a variety of hitters to take control of the match from the outset. After taking the opening set, the Raiders opened up a 20-10 lead in the second set and never looked back. By the time the sweep was complete, Loudoun County had emptied its bench to give the next wave of Raiders a valuable taste of state tournament action.
"It's an indescribable feeling," junior outside hitter Jenna Strange said. "We just keep coming back here and it seems like the season just keeps on going. Every team we have that comes here, works hard to get here."
The Raiders (28-1) - whose rock-solid serving keyed their sweep of Cave Spring one night earlier - continued their service blitz, posting eight aces and only three service errors, all in the final set. Grafton (25-3) led for all of two points in the entire match. Up front, Strange - the Region II player of the year - pounded down 13 kills and added three aces while setters Colleen Bowlds (17 assists) and Jordan Leiter (12) seamlessly rotated in to run the offense. In the back row, junior libero Gabby Serafin had 13 digs.
For the Raiders' five seniors, the victory provided a fitting conclusion to four years of dominance at the state level.
"I did not want my season to end on a loss, so I was going to do everything in my power this entire season to push for that final victory for all of us to enjoy and to end on a positive note," senior Kathleen Horvath said. "That was my main goal."
Since a loss in the 2006 title game, Loudoun County has gone 106-5 with an immaculate 8-0 record at VCU. And despite graduating five more seniors this spring, the Raiders have no intentions of slipping.
"The girls that return the next year know what it took to get here, so it starts with that at the beginning of the year," Raiders Coach Jenica Matthias said. "These players don't know how to lose. They just don't do it."