The Broad Run volleyball team played its 22nd match on Tuesday, giving it four more than any other team in the Virginia AAA Cedar Run District.
In a pair of early season tournaments loaded with Fairfax schools, the Spartans (15-7) played well, but took their lumps in the form of three defeats to South County. The rest of their pre-district schedule included a pair of defeats to second-ranked Ashburn rival Stone Bridge and a loss at No. 5 Flint Hill.
The grueling early-season gauntlet was built by design for a team with postseason aspirations, and now that Broad Run is beginning its second go-round in the Cedar Run’s home-and-home schedule, Coach Ellen Roberts is seeing results.
“The non-conference schedule was definitely tougher — maybe even a little tougher than I expected,” said Roberts, who is in her second stint as Broad Run’s head coach. “But I was happy that we finished fifth out of 16 at the (NVVA Cassel’s Invitational), and as the only Loudoun team there, the girls showed they can pretty much hold their own.
“Playing Stone Bridge, mentally, that helps us, because they are a team that has made it to states the last couple years, and that’s where we would like to end up.”
A year ago, the Spartans started strong against much of the same opposition but crumbled down the stretch, losing four of their final six matches and crashing out of the Northwest Region tournament quarterfinals in a five-set loss at Patrick Henry-Roanoke.
Broad Run returned eight players from that roster, and despite the loss of senior setter Molly Maloney to a hip injury, the team’s experience is showing in the second half of the season.
Amanda Swanson, who can play on the outside and opposite, leads the team with 129 kills, junior middles Rachel Hendricks and Sam King are providing consistent offense and defense, senior Tara Compher is filling Maloney’s shoes as best she can and junior Taylor Austin is, as Roberts put it, “pretty much all over the court.”
The Spartans close out the regular season against Patriot, Battlefield and Freedom-South Riding — three teams they already swept this season — but hope their willingness to push themselves early pays dividends in November.
“We’ve been able to work on defense more, and our serving is now in the 90th percentile,” Roberts said. “We’re still trying to tweak some things to make it all come together, but everyone is contributing, and that’s been a key for us because we don’t have that one all-around player that is consistent 100 percent of the time. In order to do well, we need to play as a team.”
Hoekstra, the Falcons’ middle hitter, has bedeviled opponents this season; through 11 games, she has 68 kills this season, which ties her for the team lead with junior Kara Glynn. Her offensive output often catches opponents off guard, frustrating defenders and yes, even prompting the occasional tear on the other side of the net.
“It’s kind of sad for her, but it’s nice for our team to be able to say ‘Yeah, we have that ability to be the best,’” Hoekstra said of the opponent she forced to tears earlier this season. “When you see it pay off like that, even though it’s a negative for the other team, it’s just really awesome.”
Hoekstra’s numbers are a product of Severna Park’s up-tempo offense that features quick hits off of sets instead of slower developing plays set up for outside hitters. Severna Park Coach Todd Kriner said the strategy is especially effective against teams that don’t feature similar offensive attacks but is effective against nearly any team because it forces defenders to pay closer attention to Hoekstra than they might against other middle hitters.
“It definitely affects their communication level with each other, their frustration levels,” Hoekstra said of her opponents this season. “Sometimes it’s kind of fun to see their coach be like ,‘Hey, watch number 4. We need to put a triple block on her,’ and have all three of their front row blockers come and try and block my hit and still be able to hit around them. I can only imagine that that’s not fun for their passers.”
Hoekstra and the Falcons have just three games remaining in their regular season, including a showdown Oct. 25 in their regular season finale against No. 7 Arundel, the only other undefeated team in Anne Arundel County.
Walter Johnson makes its debut in the rankings and will face Damascus Wednesday night... Magruder moves up in the rankings after beating previously-unbeaten Damascus last Wednesday... South County enters the rankings after edging then-No. 9 W.T. Woodson in five sets on Tuesday. The Stallions are have won 13 of their last 14 matches and are unbeaten in the Virginia AAA Patriot District.
(Records through Tuesday.)
1. Sherwood (11-0) Last week: 1
2. Stone Bridge (19-0) LW: 2
3. Loudoun County (15-1) LW: 3
4. Centennial (10-0) LW: 4
5. Flint Hill (22-2) LW: 5
6. Holy Cross (19-1) LW: 6
7. Arundel (11-0) LW: 8
8. Magruder (17-0) LW: 10
9. Walter Johnson (12-0) LW: NR
10. South County (17-5) LW: NR