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Stone Bridge wins Class 5 volleyball title with a young, deep and powerful squad

Sophia Denayer, second from left, and the Stone Bridge volleyball team swept Cox on Friday. (Amber Searls/For The Washington Post)

A previous version of this article misattributed comments made by Stone Bridge players Trisha Guevara and Lilah Stevens. The article has been corrected.

The Stone Bridge volleyball team was significantly younger, on average, than the rest of the squads that showed up to the Virginia state championship matches at Siegel Center in Richmond. It didn’t look like it.

After landing the final blow in a match that was never fully in doubt, the Bulldogs let out a collective, cathartic roar as they swept Cox in three sets, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21, at the Class 5 title match Friday, capturing the team’s first championship since 2015.

“We have a really good defense, and our coach always says that defense wins state champions, so we went out and did that,” sophomore Lilah Stevens said.

Though the sweep told a different story, Stone Bridge’s title run was far from a foregone conclusion.

The Bulldogs (25-5) entered the year with predominantly second- and third-year players, which led Coach Jill Raschiatore to believe her team may have underestimated itself at the start of the season.

“I don’t think they realized the potential they had when they started,” Raschiatore said. “When [in September] we beat Loudoun County, who’s always in the state title game at the 4A level, I think they kind of took a step back and went, ‘Wait a minute.’ ”

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Each hitter who loaded up on the Bulldogs’ side of the net seemed to bring a new level of strength and verticality. At the start of the second set, it was Stevens who couldn’t be stopped, powering up until it was another Bulldog’s turn. Then senior Sophia Denayer shined, followed by sophomore Gabby Flamish and junior Allison Gardner, whose hits were too fast for the Falcons (20-4) to locate.

“It’s a really fun thing,” junior Trisha Guevara said of the team’s depth.“… We’ve improved so much since August. It’s all how they’re working together and coming together.”

With just two of its players graduating in 2022, Stone Bridge will have the opportunity to repeat next season, a feat that has not been accomplished in Class 5 since the Virginia High School League restructured its playoff format in 2013.

“Next year we’re going to come in with the same drive, same goal,” Guevara said. “We still have our power hitter, Lilah Stevens, right here; we still have my middles and my right side and my defense. We’re really just losing one power hitter, but that’s okay because it’s not going to hold us back.”

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