Calling this a learning season for Madeira's volleyball team might seem like a slight on the surface. The Snails have already captured their first ISL AA title to earn the top seed in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament for the first time. But with so many firsts continuing to pile up this postseason, Madeira is learning valuable lessons every time they take the court.
In Monday's City Championship — yet another first for the school — the Snails quickly found themselves trailing Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champions Good Counsel two sets to none and on the verge of being swept off the floor at Maret.
But Madeira shook off the early jitters, settled in behind the aggressive play of senior Breanna Atkinson and stormed back to tie the match. In the decisive fifth set, the Snails proved just how far they've come this fall and held on for a 17-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-15, 15-13 win.
"Good Counsel has this name like Flint Hill had last year," Madeira coach Kim Adams said. "That definitely contributed to the slow start. We went in tight and really couldn't buy a pass. But in the third game we found our rhythm."
As she so often has been this season, Atkinson, a Duke-bound outside hitter, was the catalyst. Most of her match-high 30 kills came at crucial moments that helped the Snails claw their way back into the match.
"She is the energy. She is the spark," Adams said. "We weren't really getting her the ball, and I think it surprised Good Counsel a little bit when she came alive."
Atkinson added 15 digs and sophomore middle blocker Paige Humphrey finished with 12 kills, nine digs and 15 total blocks as the Snails (27-2) won their 23rd consecutive match while playing for the third time in four days.
Coming off an emotional five-set win over Holy Cross in Friday’s WCAC final, the Falcons (19-4) could not sustain their strong start and struggled mightily with their serves in the final three sets.
Madeira swept St. Catherine’s in the first round of the VISAA tournament on Tuesday and travels to Richmond for a matchup with Nansemond Suffolk Academy (21-8) in Friday’s semifinals. A fourth meeting with ISL rivals and two-time defending champions Flint Hill (the No. 2 seed) could await Madeira in Saturday's final. The Snails are 3-0 against the Huskies this season, including 3-0 and 3-1 wins in the last two weeks.