As the students from Heritage started rolling into Loudoun Valley's gym by the dozens for Tuesday night's volleyball match, a bit of surprise registered on the faces of the Vikings' well-known cheering section, The Jungle. The Vikings fans quickly pulled out cell phones and started dialing, just to make sure they had enough reinforcements to counter their guests.
By match's end the Pride contingent still slightly outnumbered The Jungle, and they stood and matched them cheer for cheer the entire way. But it was the Vikings fans who had the most to celebrate in a 25-14, 25-14, 25-22 victory that let them send off their guests with one final message: "Un-de-feated!"
Second-ranked Loudoun Valley improved to 11-0, but more importantly the Vikings were challenged in a way they haven't been much this season. They responded by playing at a higher energy level than they've showed in some recent matches, led by All-Met Player of the Year Blair Brown's match-high 10 kills -- including a blistering hit to end the match -- five solo blocks and two block assists.
"It's really hard to go out and sustain your energy against competition that isn't always there," Brown said. "But you still work really hard, and you just look forward to matches that are going to challenge you and make you better, like this one. It was fast-paced and intense; I loved it. These are the kind of games that let you build camaraderie on the court."
The stiff competition provided by the Pride (7-2), which led at the midway point of two of the three games -- and the equally impressive showing by their fans -- bodes well for their season too. So did the return of starting setters Kathryn Buttery and Kaitlin Petrella, who have missed the past two weeks with a concussion and mononucleosis, respectively.
"This program is still young, but you can see we're starting to build," Coach Carmel Keilty said. "I think Heritage volleyball has already come a long way, and you can see it growing. The kids at school are so supportive of the girls, and they have been all season. I call them my Chaos Crew. I'm very proud of the student body at Heritage and their support of each other, which is how you build a tradition."
Note: Stone Bridge middle hitter Samantha Ingersoll has orally committed to play her other sport -- softball -- next season at the University of North Carolina. Ingersoll, All-Met in both sports, considered going to a smaller school where she could play both but opted to become a Tar Heel and play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.