Not every volleyball team swept in three games leaves its home gym pleased, but when you consider the position Battlefield was in Thursday night -- a first-year, senior-less program playing defending Virginia AAA champion Forest Park -- the Bobcats' upbeat mood was understandable.
Battlefield played Forest Park to a respectable 25-10, 25-21, 25-18 loss in the only time the teams will meet this season.
"Going into it, I think they were nervous," Battlefield Coach Michelle McGregor said of her players. "But we went into the game the same way we've gone into every game, needing to focus on the basics and work through things that pop up, and they did that. I think they left [Thursday] night feeling pretty good."
The Bobcats (3-6) already have beaten Gar-Field, Dominion and Potomac this season and there are about 10 players on each of the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams. Kristen King, the lone junior, and sophomore Sidney Harbold are two of the top players.
"Long term, we're going to have a strong program," said McGregor, formerly the coach at Brentsville. "We got the word out there and we got students and everyone interested so that will [encourage] people to want to go to camps and improve their skills and play year-round."
In matches against the top Cedar Run District competition, Battlefield lost, 25-10, 25-17, 25-10 to Osbourn Park and 25-12, 25-9, 25-18 to Stonewall Jackson.
"When we played OP, it was the first time the girls had really seen the game played at that speed, so it really caught them off guard," McGregor said. "But I think they learned a lot from that night because the next day at practice, they had a lot of ideas to discuss. That really did open our eyes to how fast we have to get things moving."
Prince William County's other new high school, Freedom, is not fielding a varsity volleyball team this season. As of late last month, there were about 14 players in the program.
"We made the decision [not to play varsity] pretty early in volleyball just because they just don't have the experience at all," Freedom Activities Director Greg Margheim said. "A lot of them are first-time volleyball players or have one year of experience. We decided it would be better for our kids to just play a JV schedule."
Hylton's Big Win
In its seven defeats this season, Hylton has lost 12 of 21 games by five points or fewer. So its 10-25, 25-23, 22-25, 26-24, 15-13 win Thursday over Stonewall Jackson was plenty meaningful.
"I've just been waiting for us to kind of put a whole match together and win some close ones because we've had a lot of very close ones where we score 20 or more points and we've lost," said Bulldogs Coach Karen Mays, whose team had to quickly regroup after getting blown out in the first game. "It was just a matter of time."
The nondistrict win for Hylton (5-7) avenged a 3-1 loss to the Raiders from earlier in the season. Senior Mallory Cashdollar had eight kills and juniors Ashlee Keown and Whitney Hanlin had five each. Senior Alex Roderick had 22 digs, senior Lindsey Sellman 17 and junior Alicia Anderson 15.
Mays has tinkered with her team's alignment and personnel but might have found the elusive combination against Stonewall.
"We're still trying to find a lineup that works," she said. "We've been very inconsistent this year. I don't think we've started two matches with the same lineup yet. We're taking steps in right direction. We might be taking baby steps, but we're getting there."
In some sports, teams purposely avoid scheduling out-of-area teams they might meet in the region or state playoffs. The area's two best volleyball teams -- Forest Park and Osbourn Park -- are doing the opposite. They will each face Richmond schools Douglas Freeman and Mills Godwin -- currently tied for second in a state poll -- on Oct. 16 at Forest Park.
"I'm always looking to play the best teams," said Forest Park Coach Dan Jones, whose team's lone loss last season was to Mills Godwin. "Particularly with this year's team that kind of lacks the experience against that type of competition for the most part. I wanted to put some of that in there before we go into tournament time to make sure we're battle-tested and ready to go."
The Bruins (8-1) recently beat 2003 state semifinalist Robinson, and Jones tried to schedule some teams from the Virginia Beach area as well.
To create the scheduling openings, Forest Park decided to face Cedar Run District teams Potomac, Osbourn and Battlefield once each instead of twice. And with Freedom not playing varsity volleyball this season, that opened two more dates in the schedule. So Forest Park and Osbourn Park will meet for a third time (Oct. 27), and the Bruins might also face Stonewall a third time.
"I think we've got one of the better programs in the state," Jones said, "so we need to maybe seek [the competition] out in order to test ourselves and make sure that we're ready."
Forest Park's lone loss this season was to Chancellor.