Notre Dame first-year coach Julie Clough has noticed her team hesitates to talk about past seasons.
The players, for instance, avoided telling her of their record last season (2-12). And before Monday's match against Shenandoah Valley, they told the coach simply that it had been a while since they had defeated this particular opponent.
That is, until now.
Notre Dame rolled past Shenandoah Valley, 15-8, 15-10, 15-1, improving its record to 4-5, the Dragons' best start in years.
"They're definitely gaining a lot each match and having fun," said Clough, who admitted being nervous at the start of the season. "I didn't know what to expect at first, but now that we have been together . . . I know they are getting more out of it and enjoying it, especially every time we win."
No moment has been a greater confidence boost than the victory over Shenandoah Valley.
"That was really cool. That was an awesome feeling," said senior hitter Gabby Lee, who has played varsity since her freshman year. "I think we expect more of ourselves this year because everyone realizes the potential of the team. . . . When we walk into a match [this year], we expect to win."
Wakefield Unleashes Triple Threat
Twin sisters Liz and Mary Jones create a comfortable setter-hitter combination at Wakefield School, and middle hitter Katie Updike gives the team an added threat.
An example of the trio's importance came in the first victory of the season against Wakefield Country Day School on Sept. 10. Liz Jones tallied 12 service points, and Mary Jones and Updike each accounted for five kills.
The performance of the three juniors--who should provide the bulk of Wakefield's offense this season--only makes the rest of the team work harder, coach Sasha Mobley said.
"What I've seen from these guys is that they are really committed [to winning], and I have no doubt that [the entire team is] going to do very well," said Mobley, whose squad finished 9-10 last season.
Falcons' Offensive Core Takes Off
Fauquier Coach Diana Story has seen her young team improve in a number of areas this season. Role players are stepping up and getting quality playing time for a team with just two seniors. The Falcons serving has improved, as has the team's offensive execution.
But what has provided the most pleasant surprise during Fauquier's 9-0 start has been the development of a relatively young outside and middle hitter group, which boasts only one senior, Brie West.
Juniors Katie Gudrow, Katie Moore and Katie D'Ambro have impressed Story with their development in recent matches.
"They've showed me they have a lot of dedication," Story said. "They have a lot of grit and will to get there."
A key to the hitters early success has been the steady play of senior setter Stacey Sviatko. Sviatko's ability to place the ball where the hitters need it, Story said, helps the progression and confidence of the young players.
"They really, really trust Stacey and they rely on her to get them the ball," Story said. "What she can do and where she can put the ball is a huge, huge part of our offense."
Madeira Playday tournament
Madeira def. Foxcroft, 15-7, 15-9
Georgetown Day def. Foxcroft, 15-17, 15-12, 15-9
St. Stephen's/St. Agnes def. Foxcroft, 15-6, 15-1
Notre Dame def. Shenandoah Valley, 15-8, 15-10, 15-1
Quantico def. Wakefield
Bethlehem Baptist def. Highland, 15-3, 15-5, 15-1
Leesburg Christian def. Rosedale, 15-13, 15-13
Wakefield def. Notre Dame
Highland def. Covenant School (Richmond), 16-14, 12-15, 12-15, 15-5, 15-13