RICHMOND — The signs of Loudoun County’s dominance of the Virginia AA state volleyball tournament over the past four years were impossible to ignore.
A photograph of Raiders 2009 state player of the year Juliane Hanna filled the cover of the state championships program. And on a night when Loudoun County’s football team played its first second-round playoff game since 1996, the school bused its full drum line down to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center for Friday’s state semifinal match against Cave Spring.
So prolific has Loudoun County’s run been that Cave Spring Coach Tamalyn Tanis has called it “a machine.”
But after two years of watching the Raiders celebrate at their expense, Cave Spring finally found the shut-off switch. With a fast-paced offense, varied points of attack and confidence that built as the match wore on, the Knights toppled the four-time defending champions, 20-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-21, to end the Raiders’ reign.
Using the balanced offense that powered them through yet another unbeaten year against AA opposition, Loudoun County (27-2) never trailed in winning the first set. But in the second, Cave Spring began to adjust.
Even as the Knights (28-3) grabbed a 2-1 lead, the Raiders remained confident and jumped out to a 14-9 lead in the fourth set. But they couldn’t keep it going.
“We’ve been in those types of situations before, so we know how to respond,” Loudoun County senior libero Gabby Serafin said. “We never lost our confidence, but they just played a great match and we couldn’t come back.”
Serafin and fellow seniors Jordan Leiter (33 assists), Katrina Kirby (six kills) and Jenna Strange (nine kills, eight blocks) were cornerstones for a Raiders team that compiled a 133-7 record over the past five years. None had ever experienced a loss to end a season.
“It’s definitely a different feeling being on the other side,” Strange said. “It would have been great to go out with another title, but Cave Spring came out and they fought, and they wanted it.”