Practice was finished, but South River was still itching for more volleyball, so the players loaded up three cars and drove as a team to Severna Park High. There, they scouted their friends and rivals as the Falcons hosted Arundel in an Anne Arundel County matchup.
The Seahawks (16-1) have been going the extra mile this season, but on that Thursday evening earlier this month, they went an extra 15. That effort paid dividends Monday as they improved on their historic start with a four-set win over Arundel.
“We want to assert ourselves not only as a county power, but as a region power and a state power,” senior Savannah Siegrist said. “We really want to put our names on a state banner.”
While South River consistently finishes near the top of the Anne Arundel County standings, it has taken a leap forward this fall. Led by a deep senior class, the team has relied on its balance to pull out close matches and maintain a near-perfect record. The Seahawks survived a five-setter against Huntingtown and beat Centennial and Atholton in four sets. Their lone loss came to No. 8 Northern at an early September tournament.
South River’s players stayed active with club and beach volleyball over the summer. Sarah Manderson, a senior middle blocker, said that helped them enter the season prepared despite some roster turnover.
“We have a pretty good group of girls this year,” Manderson said. “I think the main difference is, everyone improved so much over their club season.”
Manderson (89 kills) and senior middle blocker Brighde Williamson (21) have emerged as weapons up front with a combined 27 blocks in non-tournament matches (through Sunday). Senior libero Madisyn Jones has a team-high 172 digs while sophomore setter Emily Speciale leads the team in assists (271).
Siegrist, a Jacksonville beach volleyball commit, leads the team in kills (136) and aces (18), while adding 149 digs. The strategy in beach volleyball is different, Siegrist said, but a lot of the skills have translated indoors.
“It helps you become faster, jump higher. Just seeing the court better and having the court vision,” Siegrist said.
South River has been knocked out of the playoffs by Severna Park (6-6) the last several years and faces the perennial power Tuesday before wrapping up the regular season against Old Mill.
“I want to go out big and strong for my last year and winning states is my dream — so [this start is] awesome,” Jones said. “Everyone has the heart and desire to want to win. It’s not like three of us that want to win. It’s the whole team.”
Digs per game averaged by National Cathedral’s Brett Pearson. To put that number in perspective, the region’s top hitters average fewer than 20 kills per game. How many more would they have without the likes of Pearson in the back court?
S Alena Villanueva, Magruder, Sr.
The four-year starter set a school record for career assists (1,439) while notching 34 along with seven aces in Tuesday’s four-set win over Gaithersburg. Villanueva has helped lead the Colonels to a 13-3 start.
It’s tough to describe, but there was something about Sydney Trotto’s swing that just wasn’t right. She came at the ball from the side, her palm turned over as she smacked it. Her spikes caught the block too much or hit the net.
Fortunately, Coach Stephanie Noriega had a lot of time to work with her.
Trotto, now a junior and West Springfield’s star outside hitter, started attending Noriega’s volleyball summer camp in the sixth grade. She could pass and set and take serve-receive with the best of the campers. But then there was the cursed “softball swing,” Noriega calls it.
“As soon as she fixed that swing, she was unstoppable,” Noriega said.
This is how future varsity studs find their way onto high school volleyball coaches’ radars. They go to summer camps or play on club teams at early ages. They get noticed. Coaches figure out in which school district they live. They start putting together the roster of the future.
It’s an intense camp for young players, Trotto said, specifically for that reason. At age 11, it is a high school try-out of sorts. It’s a way to make the ‘in’ crowd.
Trotto went to Lake Braddock for middle school, but knew she’d transfer to West Springfield for high school. Not many of her friends would go with her, but she knew she’d have volleyball, she said.
“You could just see they were on a path to becoming great volleyball players,” Noriega said. “They worked hard. They wanted it.”
Now West Springfield wants another Conference 7 title, a crown the Spartans won a year ago in a sweep of Lake Braddock.
Northwest dropped its first set in a win over Wootton that clinched the Montgomery 4A Red Division title. . . . Langley is riding a 15-match winning streak over the last seven weeks. . . . Loudoun County beat Stone Bridge on Monday in four sets and Woodgrove on Tuesday. . . . Briar Woods lost its first match of the season to Stone Bridge last Thursday. . . . O’Connell swept St. John’s and Paul VI to remain perfect in conference. . . . Flint Hill beat Bowie and Holy Cross before falling to Chantilly in five sets. . . . Northern bounced back from a loss to Huntingtown with wins over Thomas Stone and Great Mills. . . . Oakton beat then-No. 10 Chantilly, 3-1, and is on a 13-match winning streak.
1. Northwest (11-0) Last week: 1
2. Langley (18-1) LW: 2
3. Loudoun County (18-2) LW: 4
4. Briar Woods (14-1) LW: 2
5. Middleburg Academy (31-2) LW: 6
6. O’Connell (25-2) LW: 8
7. Flint Hill (17-3) LW: 5
8. Northern (14-1) LW: 9
9. Oakton (21-2) LW: NR
10. Chantilly (11-2) LW: 7
Dropped out: No. 10 Howard (13-3)
Records through Tuesday.