Little separated the Chantilly and Herndon girls' volleyball teams on the scoreboard for most of last night's contest between AAA Concorde District teams -- arguably the most competitive in the Northern Region.
And fittingly, a matter of inches decided the outcome. Two late serves by Lauren Weatherhead were placed perfectly and proved to be the key as the Hornets won in five games, 25-15, 20-25, 25-15, 12-25, 15-12.
Leading 11-10 in the fifth game, Weatherhead's tough low serve barely skimmed the leg of a Chargers defender, who was toeing the back line. A controversial ace followed, making it 13-10.
Two winning hits by Herndon's Devyn Hunter eventually clinched the victory and moved the Hornets to 8-1 and 2-0 in the district.
"The difference was getting and keeping momentum in that final game," Weatherhead said. "We had to make those serves, and our home fans really helped us get by in the end."
Herndon controlled the pace of the match, and its crisp, decisive passing and overall solid play was evident as it took a two games-to-one lead. But Coach Pat Smith said her team's mistakes enabled the defending region champion Chargers to come back.
Down two games to one, Chantilly (2-7, 0-3) seemed inspired in the fourth game, at 25-12 the most lopsided game of the evening.
"I think our girls were standing still a lot in game four," Smith said. "I'm glad they got their mobility back in game five. . . . When it comes down to gaining momentum, two aces can really do it for you."
Said Herndon junior Logan Westphal, who had six kills: "We were running plays and aiming for that big opening in the middle of their side of the floor. In game five, we just wanted to keep our heads up and stay in it."
Chantilly, which entered the postseason a year ago with a losing record before making a remarkable run to win the district and the region titles, graduated 10 of its 13 players from that squad.
"We're young," Chargers Coach Charles Ezigbo said. "I'm happy the way we rebounded from a tough start. We're getting better. Both teams seemed to play very tentatively early in game five. When you are in a game of errors . . . aces can really give a team a psychological edge."