Northwest begins the season ranked No. 3 in the D.C. area. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

In November, Loudoun County defeated Jamestown High School in four sets to earn its fifth straight Virginia 4A title. This capped off a year in which the team won 28 matches and earned the right to call itself the best team in the D.C. area.

Heading into this season, not much has changed. Yes, Coach Sherrilyn Hanna’s squad will have to hunt for state title number six without All-Met Player of the Year Hailey Rubino. But in Northern Virginia where the volleyball pipeline often starts at the middle school level, it’s never really a problem for a coach like Hanna to rely on the next girl up.

But in Virginia alone, there will be plenty of challengers to the Raiders’ dominance, including a Middleburg Academy team that won 40 matches last year and a Langley squad that is already off to a strong start. Four private powers, including three from the WCAC, and two Montgomery County favorites round out our first top 10 of the year.

Note: All records are from last season.

1. Loudoun County (29-2) Last ranked: 1

The Raiders have started the year by taking down two of the best teams in Division 5A: Briar Woods (3-0) and Stone Bridge (3-1).

2. Holy Cross (27-4) LR: 7

Coming off their fifth straight WCAC title, the Tartans will be led by senior captain Jade Parchment, an N.C. State commit.

3. Northwest (19-1) LR: 2

Coach Stephanie Blake lost only one starter from a team that finished second in last year’s final rankings.

4. Middleburg Academy (40-3) LR: 5

Can they approach 40 wins again this season? An early October match against Flint Hill should be a nice measuring stick for coach Maureen DiClementi’s team.

5. Langley (26-3) LR: 8

A 3-0 win over Oakton in the season opener is a sign that this Saxons team may be even better than last year’s 26-3 squad.

6. Flint Hill (27-4) LR: 6

The Huskies played their best in big games last season, collecting wins over Holy Cross, Oakton and O’Connell.

7. O’Connell (34-4) LR: 4

Last year’s WCAC runner-up will be looking to replace three of their starting 12 this season, including All-Met outside hitter Maxine Friedman.

8. Briar Woods (23-3) LR: 3

The Falcons will be hoping for a trip back to the Virginia 5A finals, but will have to do well against fellow division power Stone Bridge first.

9. Atholton (20-5) LR: 9

After capturing their first state title in 27 years, the Maryland 3A champions are returning a lot of talent for a title defense.

10. Stone Bridge (21-5) LR: NR

The Bulldogs will look to replace the production of former libero Ryley Gill, who averaged more than 15 digs a match last year.

On the bubble: Oakton (27-5), Magruder (17-3), Wootton (17-4), Bishop Ireton (25-8)