As Heritage was putting the finishing touches on its three-game sweep of Loudoun County on Wednesday night, the Pride student section, which has been dubbed the "Chaos Crew" by Coach Carmel Keilty, started a chant of "Best in Leesburg."
That might have been an understatement.
Heritage, with back-to-back victories over Broad Run and Loudoun County, has established itself as the top team in the AA Dulles District headed into the final three weeks of regular season play. The Pride boasts an 11-3 overall record and an 8-1 district mark, with its losses coming to Loudoun County, Waynesboro and No. 2 Loudoun Valley. The Vikings, despite playing a Dulles District schedule, are not members of the district and will move into the AAA National District for the playoffs.
For most of Heritage's players, including seniors Heather McConnell, Kaitlin Petrella and Kelly Haller and juniors Katherine Buttery, Alana Rudkovsky and Rachel Young, success has been a culmination of at least three years spent in the varsity program.
"It's been fun to watch the progression," Keilty said after her team's 25-22, 25-16, 25-16 victory over the Raiders. "They've always been a very mature group of kids. They don't get down on each other; they never have. They just really stick together out there."
Buttery, a three-year starter at setter, said sticking together off the court has been a key to their success. The team participates in many group activities, including taking a trip last week to the corn maze in Leesburg. Next up: a lock-in.
"Coach told us if we beat Broad Run and Loudoun County this week that she'd let us have a sleepover in the gym," Buttery said, grinning. "We've been waiting two years for this!"
Nine Straight for Bulldogs
Stone Bridge posted its ninth consecutive victory of the season on Thursday, beating AAA National District opponent Madison in three games, 25-12, 25-16, 25-11. The Bulldogs (12-2 overall, 2-0 district) were led by senior All-Met Samantha Ingersoll, who totaled a game-high eight kills and 12 aces on her hard-hit and well-placed jump serves.
"She's extremely consistent and extremely accurate when she jumps," Coach Jill Raschiatore said. "She's definitely the only person I've ever coached who I can not only call for a jump, but I can call for her to put it on a specific area of the floor if I want to."
Stone Bridge has dropped one game since losing back-to-back matches to No. 5 Westfield and No. 2 Loudoun Valley at its invitational tournament Sept. 10. Since then, Raschiatore said the Bulldogs have made great strides in teamwork, communication on the court and defense.
The main concern now is finding a way not to get complacent as they finish their regular season schedule. The top four teams from each district in the Northern Region -- the AAA Concorde, AAA National and AAA Liberty -- will advance to the regional playoffs.
"That is a big concern of mine," Raschiatore said. "We've been talking about that a lot in practice, about trying to up the intensity. But you can never replace the feeling of game time no matter how hard you try."
Eyes on the Future
Loudoun County (8-6 overall, 6-3 AA Dulles) has one senior on its roster this season and even uses two freshmen -- middle hitter Shaylin O'Connell and setter Katie Martin -- in the starting rotation. Such youth is something Coach Jenica Brown finds as promising for the future of her program as it is frustrating at times in the present.
"It's going to be nice," Brown said after Wednesday's loss at Heritage. "But it's hard to handle now because they're young, but they're talented. It's just we're very inconsistent as a team. We need to find more players who can finish the point. That's what we're lacking right now. The girls work hard in matches; they dive for every ball. It just sometimes comes in spurts."
The most consistent player in the lineup is junior middle hitter Amanda Arbogast, who was impressive against the Pride despite the team's loss.
"She's definitely our go-to player right now," Brown said. "But she can't be expected to do everything."