The Washington Post

Volleyball notebook: Can anyone stop Sherwood and Stone Bridge?

Some questions and answers as high school volleyball season gets underway around the area:

Can Sherwood win a third straight Maryland 4A title?

The Warriors open this season where they ended up last year: at No. 1 in The Post’s rankings. They have not lost since the 2009 season — winning 38 matches and two state titles in that span — and return 2011 All-Met Player of the Year Alex Holston, a Florida recruit.

At 6-foot-1, Holston is already a tough matchup for opponents, but Sherwood is set to get even taller in two weeks once senior hitter Dominique Parker makes her return to the court. The 6-foot-1 Parker is recovering from a stress fracture in her foot and wore a boot on the sidelines of the Warriors’ 25-19, 25-9, 25-14 victory over Good Counsel Tuesday.

Once Parker returns to the starting lineup, senior Megan Brady will slide back to play libero for the Warriors. Katie Russell, who started at libero for Sherwood Tuesday against the Falcons, will come off the bench as a defensive specialist.

Can anyone stop Stone Bridge in the Virginia AAA Northern Region?

The No. 2 Bulldogs have bulldozed their way to consecutive region titles and back-to-back trips to the AAA semifinals over the last two seasons while going unbeaten against region opposition. With All-Met senior outside hitter Ryan Ackermann, all-region junior libero Sarah Fairchild among nine returning players, Stone Bridge is once again a favorite to return to Richmond.

South County, Chantilly, Westfield and Langley are contenders in the wide-open field behind the Bulldogs and each get a shot at Stone Bridge in the regular season. W.T. Woodson is looking to build on its first state tournament appearance and Oakton — led by senior setter Emma Olson — and Yorktown should also be in the mix.

Is this the year Good Counsel’s WCAC reign finally ends?

Holy Cross pushed Good Counsel to the brink in last year’s WCAC final, but the Falcons rallied to win their sixth straight league title. Led by senior outside hitter Taylor Gallart (Central Florida) and 6-4 junior middle Rhamat Alhassan, the Tartans could take the next step this season.

St. John’s, buoyed by the deft setting of junior Becca Bateman, and Paul VI will also be in the hunt, but senior middle Sydney Dailey and Good Counsel will not abdicate the throne without a fight.

Will Loudoun County erase last year’s anomaly with another state title run?

The Raiders’ annual bus ride to Richmond has become so routine, Loudoun County’s athletic director could feel comfortable booking his team’s transportation a year in advance. But after Cave Spring snapped Loudoun County’s record run of four consecutive Virginia AA championships in last November’s semifinals, the ultra-talented Raiders are more determined to get back to the state capital than ever. Led by the powerful outside hitting duo of senior Taylor Huewe and junior Maggie Phillips, two-time All-Met coach of the year Jenica Brown believes this could be one of her best teams yet.

Will Flint Hill return to form in the ISL?

After two years atop the Post’s final rankings and a combined 64-2 record during that stretch, the graduation-depleted Huskies fell back into the pack last season. In their stead, Madeira, anchored by current Duke freshman Breanna Atkinson’s dominant all-around play, grabbed ISL, City and VISSA state titles. Paced by senior hitter Haley McClure and junior middle Erica Narel (N.C. State), the Huskies are reloaded and ready to challenge the Snails — led by junior middle Paige Humphrey — for league supremacy.

Who else could contend in Montgomery County?

No. 6 Damascus and Walter Johnson.

The Hornets, who open their season Wednesday against Clarksburg, return six players from last season, five of whom will start. Senior Autumn Jenkins is back and will be joined by fellow returning senior Kayla Abernethy as well as juniors Carly Marella, Annika Schwartz and Madison Wyatt. Junior Alex Nelligan returns for the Hornets as well and will come off the bench.

The Wildcats swept Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 25-18, 25-17, 25-19, in their opener last Friday, paced largely by strong performances from seniors Gina Fischetti and Kristen Larrick.

Fischetti led both teams with 19 kills, while Larrick finished the game with 13 kills to go with 7 digs and a pair of blocks against the Barons. The Wildcats will be heavy with upperclassmen this year, featuring nine seniors on the 15-player roster.

The Post Top 10

Unbeaten for the last two seasons, 2011 All-Met player of the year Alex Holston and Sherwood extended their area-best winning streak to 39 with Tuesday's sweep of Good Counsel...Two-time defending AAA Northern Region champion Stone Bridge and five-time AA Region II champion Loudoun County both return the bulk of their state semifinalist squads.
(Last year’s final record in parentheses)
1. Sherwood (19-0)
2. Stone Bridge (28-3)
3. Loudoun County (27-2)
4. Broadneck (13-3)
5. Holy Cross (25-6)
6. Damascus (19-2)
7. Centennial (12-5)
8. Good Counsel (25-4)
9. Flint Hill (19-16)
10. Oakton (14-14)

Matt Brooks is the high school sports editor for The Washington Post. He's an Arlington native and longtime District resident and was previously a high school sports reporter, editor for several blogs and Early Lead contributor with The Post.



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