Stone Bridge (left) accounted for the lone blemish on Loudoun County’s state title run last fall. All-Met Maggie Phillips (20) and the Raiders get another crack at the Bulldogs on Sept. 30. (Richard A. Lipski/For the Washington Post)

You could forgive Maggie Phillips for talking about herself, but No. 1 Loudoun County’s lynchpin has no interest in the subject.

The Navy recruit and reigning Virginia AA Player of the Year led the Raiders to their state-record fifth state championship in 2012. She finished the season second on the team in kills (274) and digs (257) and third in blocks (39).

But when the outside hitter looks at her team, she sees the rest of the Raiders as the keys to another postseason run.

“It’s hard to talk about yourself when your team has been so good. . . so talented,” Phillips said. “Honestly, without them I wouldn’t look very good at all.”

The area’s only returning All-Met, Phillips is one of five seniors on a deep, versatile Raiders team. Setter Mandy Powers shares captain duties with Phillips, who said the title is irrelevant because all five veterans add an aspect of leadership.

Florida recruit Rhamat Alhassan’s continued development in the middle will be a catalyst as Holy Cross looks to repeat as WCAC champs. (Richard A. Lipski/For the Washington Post)

Kelsey Slack is back at libero, and fellow senior Jane Feddersen holds down the middle as the primary blocker.

North Carolina recruit Taylor Borup, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, moved from the middle to replace Towson freshman Taylor Huewe (353 kills) on the outside. In a 3-0 sweep over Loudoun Valley Tuesday night, Borup led the Raiders with 19 kills.

In her 12th year at Loudoun County, Coach Jenica Brown said she has a team full of hitters who can attack all over the court. With five players at least 6-feet tall, she said height, blocking and serving are team strengths.

Stone Bridge so close

The only team to beat Loudoun County in 2012 went on to win its third straight Virginia AAA Northern Region championship.

Unfortunately for No. 4 Stone Bridge, 2012 also marked the third straight year it returned from the state tournament in Richmond empty-handed.

The loss of two-time All-Met Ryan Ackermann will hurt the Bulldogs, but Stone Bridge will once again be tough on defense with seniors Sarah Fairchild (609 digs) and Cydney Gill (206 digs). Senior hitter Libby Haslett (249 kills) will spark the offense.

In her 14th year, Coach Jill Raschiatore is still searching for the X-factor to get her team over the hump.

Much of Sherwood’s three-time Maryland 4A title team is gone, including Maddie Moyer (left) and Katie Russell (26). But Kerra-Lei Tirado (22) returns for a Warriors team looking to continue its dominance in Montgomery County. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

“I wish I knew,” Raschiatore said last week. “If you know the answer, I’ll buy it from you. It’s different every year.

“It’s just one of those things where you’ve just got to train and take every day seriously and work harder and be better every single day starting now in August.”

No. 5 Langley will challenge the Bulldogs for supremacy in the Liberty District. The Vikings also advanced to the state semifinals in 2012.

Over Labor Day weekend, Langley won 12 straight sets to capture the gold group title in the 16th annual Virginia Volleyball Showcase in Richmond. The Saxons lost to Atlee, last year’s state runner-up, after already clinching the tournament title. Columbia recruit Alex Andrejev and sophomore Jessica Donaldson made the all-tournament team.

Huskies, Tartans eye city title rematch

If it removed No. 2 Flint Hill from the equation, No. 6 Holy Cross would have had a perfect 2012. The Tartans won their first 10 matchups before dropping two sets by two points to the hosts of the Flint Hill Invitational tournament.

Holy Cross won its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title and advanced to the City Championship, where Flint Hill dispatched the Tartans, 3-2.

The Huskies won their fourth Independent School League and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association championships in five seasons.

Both squads have the talent to maintain their form in 2013.

Holy Cross returns 6-foot-5 Florida recruit Rhamat Alhassan at middle hitter.

Flint Hill outside hitter Ally Ford (327 kills, 298 digs) said when she runs ragged during sprints, her teammates remind her of her goal to earn All-Met honors as a junior.

Sherwood hopes to keep streak alive

No. 3 Sherwood Coach Brian McCarty only broached the subject with his team once this preseason. They talked about the school’s three straight Maryland 4A state championships, and the 57-match winning streak that has survived the past three seasons.

McCarty said they haven’t talked about it since.

Sherwood will open its season Tuesday at Richard Montgomery with only two returning starters from last year’s championship team. Two-time All-Met player of the year Alex Holston graduated and enrolled at Florida, where she currently ranks third on the team in kills.

“I don’t think you could ever try to replace the level of talent that we lost, but we have high expectations for our team to play the best ball that we can with the group that we’ve got,” McCarty said. “We have some strong returning players. We don’t really want to focus on the things we lost as much as what we do have, and doing the best we can with it.”

Senior outside hitter Makayla Roy had 97 kills and 100 digs last season and has emerged as a leader. Juniors Kerra-Lei Tirado and Dalton Sanchez and sophomore setter Ariella Rodriguez will also have expanded roles this year.

Centennial, Arundel among Maryland contenders

After finishing on the cusp of state titles last season, No. 7 Centennial and No. 8 Arundel are poised to break through this year.

The Wildcats lost to Sherwood in each of the past two Maryland 4A state championship matches, but twins Allison and Brittany Orr are still among the top players in Anne Arundel County.

Centennial fell to North Hagerstown in the 3A title match last year and also lost a strong senior class, including All-Met second-team outside hitter Trisha Mockapetris. The Eagles will lean on middle hitter Jessie Link and Meghan Kelley.

The Post Top 10

Flint Hill has only one senior, but four juniors, including dangerous outside hitter Ally Ford, are three-year lettermen. . . . Broad Run senior libero Taylor Austin (590 digs) is a player to watch. . . . Madison won the gold division with a perfect run at the Northern Virginia Volleyball Association tournament.

1. Loudoun County (28-1)

2. Flint Hill (30-2)

3. Sherwood (19-0)

4. Stone Bridge (27-3)

5. Langley (26-6)

6. Holy Cross (26-2)

7. Centennial (18-1)

8. Arundel (19-1)

9. Broad Run (20-9)

10. Madison (21-8)

On the bubble: Damascus (12-4), Osbourn Park (20-4), Heritage (15-10)




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