Loudoun Valley junior Blair Brown drew cheers and even one standing ovation from the packed crowd of just under 1,000 at last night's Virginia AA volleyball quarterfinal. And that was during warm-ups, well before the Vikings had notched a 25-7, 25-21, 25-16 victory over visiting Jamestown.
In the end, No. 2 Loudoun Valley showed the crowd and the Jamestown players -- who had watched with some awe as Brown and the Vikings slammed through pregame drills -- that there's a lot more to this team than the 6-foot-4 Brown.
"They do have Blair, and she no doubt makes a huge difference," Jamestown Coach Krista Carpenedo said. "But there is a lot of other talent on that team, too. They are very well-rounded. My girls did the best they could against them, but this is a tough place to play and a tough team to play against. We don't ever see crowds like that."
Loudoun Valley (27-0) advanced to Friday's state semifinal at Carroll County High School in Hillsville, Va. The Vikings will face the winner of last night's quarterfinal between Rustburg and Lee-Staunton, with the winner advancing to Saturday's final. Jamestown's season ended at 21-5.
Nearly 200 students, whose cheering section is known affectionately as "the Jungle," stood and cheered throughout. While Brown gave them plenty to cheer in her 22-kill, 10-block performance, she also got substantial help from seniors outside hitters Sarah Neikirk (eight kills) and Amanda Kole (seven kills, 11 digs), senior setters Jen Todd (17 assists, 21 service points) and Allison Hamilton (16 assists) and senior defensive specialist Jennifer Everhart (nine digs).
"We've got two games to go and we're playing well in a lot of areas," Viking Coach Laird Johnson said. "What we have to do now is maintain."
The improbable season for Chantilly came to an end at home as the Chargers were swept by Virginia Beach's First Colonial, 25-20, 25-23, 25-16, in the Virginia AAA quarterfinals.
The loss snapped an eight-match winning streak for the Chargers (15-9), who last week won their first Northern Region title. Last night was the school's first state tournament appearance as well.
Chantilly took an early lead and extended the advantage to 17-13 lead in Game 1, and led 12-7 in Game 2 before the scrappy Patriots (20-7) rallied in both games. The Chargers fell behind 10-1 in Game 3.
"We played as well as we could," Chargers captain Shannon Gallagher said. "No one on our team can be unhappy with our effort. We just were outmatched. We have no regrets. It was a great season."
Chargers Coach Charles Ezigbo said his team peaked at the right time this season.
"We went out . . . wanting to play aggressive defense," he said. "We knew it would be a scrappy match, and you could see the determination on both sides. Neither team wanted the ball to hit the ground."
First Colonial senior outside hitter Jennifer Peterson said Chantilly's skill level was comparable to that of the teams in the Beach District.
"We were able to overcome our mistakes in the end and overcome them," Peterson said.
Broadneck senior setter Stephanie Carey doesn't think of teammates Allie Woods and Kanisha Sheppard as intimidating front-line hitters, even though they stand 6feet and 5-10, respectively. But when she looks to pass the ball, Carey knows she can count on Sheppard and Woods, as she did in the Bruins' 25-20, 24-26, 25-16, 25-23 victory over Thomas Johnson in the Maryland 4A semifinals.
With the win in College Park, Broadneck (21-2) advanced to the state final for the fifth consecutive year, and will aim to win a title for the third time in that stretch. The Bruins will met the winner of last night's Bowie-Magruder match in Saturday's final, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum.
Thomas Johnson (12-5) lost in the semifinals for the second straight year. Last year, the Patriots lost to eventual champion Quince Orchard; they also reached the semifinals in 2000 and 1999 but have not advanced to the finals in eight years.
Last night Thomas Johnson simply could not find a way to contain Woods (14 kills) and Sheppard (14 kills). The duo, who have been playing together since the seventh grade, gives Casey too many options.
"I don't want to say that we were intimidated by [Woods and Sheppard]," Thomas Johnson senior middle hitter Bethany Springer said. "But they definitely made us think, and you had to watch out for them."
In the first game, Broadneck sprinted out to an 8-3 lead. But the Patriots managed to get within two points seven times, and within one point at 18-17. The Bruins, however, got strong defensive play from Ali Malesich to give Broadneck a 22-18 lead, and Woods later capped the game with two kills.
Broadneck struggled on serve in the second game as the Patriots took a 21-20 lead. The Bruins fought back to tie the match at 22, but Thomas Johnson eventually strung together three consecutive points to win the game at 26-24.
In the third game, Broadneck rolled to a 7-0 lead before Thomas Johnson won its first point on serve. But the Patriots were never able to get any closer, as Woods and Sheppard combined for four kills. The Bruins' momentum continued in the fourth game, as Woods and Sheppard combined for 12 kills.
"We have couple of strong hitters," Carey said. "So if opponents try to concentrate on one, it's really great to have another option. It's a little scary for our opponents, because both of them do amazing things."
Staff writer Judith Evans contributed to this report.