The Stone Bridge volleyball team had already bettered its preseason goals before Saturday's Region II semifinal against Loudoun Valley.
The Bulldogs had won their first regular-season Dulles District title and taken their first district tournament title with a three-game victory over Loudoun Valley on Friday night. Then they won their first regional match, a quick two-game decision over William Monroe on Saturday morning.
But that didn't stop Stone Bridge from feeling the sting of Saturday's three-game loss to the Vikings, a nearly two-hour slugfest that ended the Bulldogs' season one match shy of the Virginia AA tournament.
"Even though at the beginning of the season our goal was just to be in the top two of the district and hope to go on to regionals, once you surpass that, you make new goals for yourself, and you want to win," said Coach Jill Raschiatore, whose team finished 19-4. "And I think we had totally changed what we wanted to do. We were thinking of regionals, and we were thinking about going on to states."
Stone Bridge proved throughout the season that it could compete with state-caliber teams. The Bulldogs defeated Loudoun Valley in three of five matches, winning eight of 13 games against the Region II runner-up.
In Saturday's semifinal, Stone Bridge survived three match points before rallying to win the second game and led, 9-6, in the final game before Loudoun Valley pulled ahead. The Bulldogs also defeated Region II champion Fauquier late in the regular season.
They succeeded with a young and balanced squad. Stone Bridge had fewer senior starters (two) than any region semifinalist and dominated matches with precision, defense and hustle rather than power or flashiness.
"We definitely exceeded our goals," said junior Kristi Fertick, who had 14 kills and 14 assists in the semifinal. "We don't have a dominant player. We have all-around athletes, and we play great defense, and that helped us all season."
Stone Bridge was the only team to place three players on the all-Dulles District first team -- Fertick, junior Taylor Lowe (8 kills, 27 assists in the semifinal) and freshman Samantha Ingersoll (8 kills, 3 blocks).
Emily Vera, Sarah Hauser and Lauren Chilcote each contributed key kills on Saturday, and Rachel Halpin and Krissy Butler were typically unflappable on the back row.
"I think in a few days, after we get a chance to sit back and rest and then reflect, I think they'll feel very proud of themselves, and they should," Raschiatore said. "I'm very proud of the girls."