RICHMOND — After falling to Cave Spring in the state semifinals a year ago, Loudoun County began the season on a mission to correct mistakes and earn its fifth state title in six years. On Friday night, the Raiders earned that opportunity with a 25-18, 25-16, 25-13 sweep of E.C. Glass in the Virginia AA semifinals at VCU’s Siegel Center.
“Last year was very upsetting. I felt like it was a lot of mental focus errors …” junior outside hitter Maggie Phillips said. “I think our seniors and most of our returners remembered how horrible it felt from last year.”
Those errors that doomed Loudoun County (27-1) last November resurfaced in the match’s opening set. E.C. Glass (24-5) jumped out to a 6-3 lead behind the offensive efforts of Alyssa Morris and Sarah Thomas. But the Raiders battled back to force a 15-15 tie before three consecutive points by the Hilltoppers led Raiders Coach Jenica Brown to call a timeout.
When the Raiders returned to the court after the break, they took the momentum with them. With Morris and Thomas on the back row for E.C. Glass, co-captains Phillips and Taylor Huewe led a 10-0 rally to give the Raiders the victory in the first set.
“We had to fix a few body position issues, mainly our blocking,” Brown said. “There were just some little things we needed to touch base on, then the girls were able to get into a rhythm.”
Before the Raiders closed out the first set, Huewe conveyed the importance of keeping composure and keeping confident to her teammates.
“I just looked at everyone in the eye and said ‘shake it off, we’ve got this,’ ” the all-Dulles District senior said. “Everyone fed off our energy and we just picked each other up.
The momentum gained from the 10-0 run continued into the second and third sets where the Raiders asserted themselves all over the court. Seven players recorded kills in the win, including a game-high 13 from Phillips. Phillips, the Region II player of the year, added 12 digs while Kelsey Slack had 15 and Megan Fox chipped in 10. Fox also had a game-high 32 assists. Huewe finished with nine kills. The Raiders held double-digit leads in the second and third sets on the way to their 17th straight victory.
Thomas finished with 12 kills and six assists and Morris had eight kills to lead the Hilltoppers in their first state semifinal .
Loudoun County will face Region IV champion Hidden Valley — which defeated Jameston, 25-18, 25-21, 25-15 — in Saturday’s final. The Raiders swept the Titans in the 2008 final for their second of four straight titles.