After finishing 2012 as the runner-up in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association tournaments, the senior captains knew the team had the talent to compete.
The idea was to identify as a champion before the nets were raised.
“As soon as the team was chosen, we were going to lay down the law to the new kids,” Brown said.
“Look, there’s no other team in the WCAC better than us. We can’t go into games hoping we have to win. We have to have the mentality from day one that we are the best team and no one can beat us. So far it’s worked.”
On September 12, Brown’s bluster was bolstered.
After going down, one set to two, to defending WCAC champ Holy Cross, the Panthers closed out the final two sets to win, 3-2.
At libero Young preached pace and endurance as the keys to WCAC supremacy. Last season Paul VI went 6-3 in nine five-set matches. She said mental conditioning was key against Holy Cross.
“[It] was really just a test for who can push through that point and who can win the point when the ball goes over the net six or seven times,” Young said.
When the Panthers (7-1, 4-0 WCAC) dropped the third set by 10 points, Brown, a setter, reminded her teammates to abandon their fear.
“That’s going to be our biggest win of the season,” Brown said. “Now I think we have the confidence to go through the rest of the season.”
“It just kind of reinforced the fact that we’re doing the right things,” Coach Sam Farrar said.
Farrar said an already strong team was bolstered by contributions from two transfers. Lauren Wasikowski complements the defense, and 5-foot-11 sophomore Rachel Burkhardt is another option in the middle.
For now, the Panthers are clearing the high bar set in the preseason.
“It may sound maybe a little conceited, but we had pretty high expectations,” Farrar said. “You can talk about it all day long, but you have to go out there and do it. . . . Now the challenge is to do it every night.”
“I think people kind of lost us in the mix,” he said, “which is a good thing for us.”
The Gladiators moved from 2A to 3A this season, and on Monday they justified that promotion with a come-from-behind victory over Howard, 22-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-21, 15-13.
Parity seems to be brewing in the county, where Howard defeated Centennial in straight sets last week before falling to Glenelg. Despite the loss of setter Camryn Long, the Gladiators still have a talented group with seven seniors and widespread club volleyball experience.
“I honestly feel that we’re the most balanced team,” Monjes said. “Everybody’s got their go-to kid, but I’ve got at least four or five kids I can trust to carry the offense.”
Glenelg’s experience, Monjes said, has also led to more poise on the court. The Gladiators trailed, 8-3, in the fifth set against Howard when Monjes called a timeout. He told his players to stay aggressive and not hesitate. They won 12 of the match’s final 17 points.
While his school is not often considered among the county’s powers, Monjes feels the county’s landscape might be changing.
“There’s something about this year’s team,” he said. “I think they’re equally ready for the challenge.”
Dating back to last season, Loudoun County has won 23 matches in a row. Maggie Phillips racked up 18 service points against Potomac Falls on Tuesday. . . . Heritage has a chance to rise in the rankings with a road test at Stone Bridge Wednesday night. . . . Makayla Roy and Kerra-Lei Tirado are each averaging double-digit kills for Sherwood, which is 3-0 in five-set matches. . . . Less than a week after toppling Centennial, Howard lost a back-and-forth match against Glenelg in five sets Monday night.
1. Loudoun County (5-0) LW: 1
2. Flint Hill (6-0) LW: 2
3. Stone Bridge (3-0) LW: 3
4. Langley (8-1) LW: 4
5. Sherwood (8-1) LW: 6
6. Madison (8-0) LW: 8
7. Arundel (1-0) LW: 7
8. Paul VI (7-1) LW: NR
9. Holy Cross (4-1) LW: 5
10. Heritage (4-1) LW: 10
(All records through Tuesday)
Dropped out: No. 9 Howard (2-1)
On the bubble: Damascus (2-0), Tuscarora (Va.) (6-0), Broad Run (5-3)