During the Loudoun County High School girls basketball team's 25-3 season, Raiders senior Marie Bolton got pretty used to winning in the fall.
So the Leesburg school's 1-4 start on the volleyball court--including a 15-0, 15-1 loss to Loudoun Valley on Thursday night--has been hard for the three-sport star to take.
"I don't like to lose," said Bolton, who also is a second baseman on the varsity softball team. "You just have to work harder . . . and hopefully in the next few games, we will improve and start winning."
If the Raiders do that, it likely will be thanks to the 5-foot-6 Bolton. She is one of the reasons the team has been in almost every match.
"She is a pretty good outside hitter, and she is beginning to get her timing back from last year," Loudoun County Coach Dennis Sizemore said. "She is quite an athlete."
She also is quite dedicated. Sizemore offered to give Bolton and her three teammates from the girls varsity basketball team--junior outside hitter Katie Baldwin, senior middle blocker Tiffanie Arbogast and senior defender Kerri Blieka--time off between the end of the basketball season and the beginning of the volleyball season. They respectfully declined.
"It was good to start something right away [after basketball]," said Bolton, who was the girls basketball team's leading scorer at 15 points per game and is being recruited by Division II and III schools for basketball. "Volleyball is a lot of fun, so it helped."
She also said volleyball is a tougher sport mentally.
"If you make a mistake, you have a lot more time to think about it than basketball," Bolton said. "You have to forget about it. . . . It's a challenge."
Bolton began playing volleyball her sophomore year because she had never played it before.
"I liked the idea of playing something new," said Bolton, who maintains a 3.5 grade-point average. "I really enjoyed it and tried to take my basketball and softball skills to a new sport, and it is really fun."
Bolton has become one of the most versatile players on the Raiders squad.
"Because of her experience in blocking and hitting, I don't want to tie her up as a setter," Sizemore said. "She has a wonderful work ethic and a wonderful mental attitude. She will do as well as she wants to."
AREA TEAMS AT A GLANCE
BROAD RUN: Senior outside hitter Autumn Wacker had a season-high six kills in Wednesday's win over Handley.
"Autumn is the captain and is the constant on the team," Spartans Coach Susan Mehl said.
Also solid: 6-2 sophomore middle hitter Sarah Myers, the lone Spartan over 6 feet, who leads the team in blocks (three against Handley). And junior defensive specialist Christine Ryan, who had a season-high nine digs Wednesday.
"They are playing much better than last year," said Mehl, whose team went 9-10 last season. "They can play with anybody."
LIBERTY: Coach Tom Ritchie believes the Eagles are better than their 1-4 record.
"They are just slow starting, and it is mostly a confidence issue rather than skill," he said.
The team is serving 87 percent but has lost three in a row since its win over Warren County. Senior setter Catherine Simpson (59 assists on the season) and junior outside hitter Jenny Gray have helped Liberty post a 28 percent kill ratio.
Junior middle blocker Krystal Hermes has recovered from a stress fracture suffered during basketball season.
LOUDOUN VALLEY: The Purcellville school is off to another torrid start, having won eight straight matches in just two games.
On offense, the Vikings' catalyst has been senior setter Erin Gessner, who is averaging 15 assists per game. Senior Kelly Sullivan and junior Valerie Murphy are averaging five kills a contest at outside hitter and are the main beneficiaries of Gessner's passes.
Defensively, senior Kim Kerr is averaging seven digs a game while sophomore Kristen Carlson is averaging three kills and five digs at outside hitter.
PARK VIEW: Senior outside hitter Alissa Simmons has been making the most of her opportunities this winter, getting full rotations since moving from right to left on the front line. She had six kills and 23 digs in Tuesday's win over Liberty.
"Her back-line performance has improved over 100 percent from last year," Park View Coach Jill Raschiatore said. "She has played a lot in the offseason, and it shows."
Other key contributors: Senior outside hitter Crystal Doughty (10 kills against Liberty) and senior Abby Powers and junior Jenny Klein.
POTOMAC FALLS: Junior setter/middle blocker Lis Bosma--who had six kills, four blocks, four digs and nine assists Tuesday in a win over Loudoun County--has been key for the Panthers while Elizabeth Duong recovered from two serious knee injuries.
"As big as [Bosma] is [6-0], she has great reaction time," Potomac Falls Coach Linda Lachey-Helms said. "She really has a cool, calm personality."
Sophomore hitters Beth Boomgard and Brittany Gjormand also have shone in Duong's absence; she should return this weekend but will wear a brace.
Park View def. Liberty, 15-13, 15-17, 15-2
Potomac Falls def. Loudoun County, 13-15, 15-8, 15-11
Loudoun Valley def. Warren County, 15-2, 15-1
Broad Run def. Handley, 14-16, 15-11, 15-9
Loudoun Valley def. Loudoun County, 15-0, 15-1