The Potomac Falls volleyball team is just two weeks into its season, but thanks to three particularly late nights over the last seven days, the Panthers have already logged as much court time as some teams will all month.
The Panthers outlasted Loudoun Valley in a marathon five-set match on Tuesday in Purcellville, coughing up a two-set lead before finally finishing off the Vikings for a 25-22, 28-26, 14-25, 26-28, 15-6 victory. The match was their third consecutive five-setter — and their fifth straight win.
Last Wednesday, the Panthers (5-1) rallied from a 2-0 deficit to edge Briar Woods in five sets. Then Monday night, they repeated the feat, storming back from a 2-1 hole to topple perennial Virginia AAA Northern Region contender Langley.
Presented with a rare chance for an earlier bedtime with a sweep at Valley, the Panthers took the first two sets but tumbled into a 12-0 pit to start the second. But they showed their resolve by extending the fourth set and riding that momentum in the fifth to avoid the collapse.
“The history here at Potomac Falls is we often find ourselves playing not to lose instead of to win,” said longtime coach Linda Lachey-Helms, who admitted her team was exhausted after playing 10 sets in two nights. “They’re still struggling at times, but they’re doing much better at playing to win this year. We have little slips, but the best thing about them is they come back.”
Senior outside hitter Kayla Carlton set a pair of school records on Tuesday with 46 digs — the most ever in a single match — and 21 kills, which makes her the Panthers’ all-time career leader with 704. But it was freshman hitter Jasmine Ellison (10 kills, four assists) who stepped up when many of her teammates were struggling midway through the match. That balance between the team’s seven upperclassmen and four freshmen — all of whom play significant minutes — has this year’s Panthers thinking big.
The Panthers reached the AA Region II final last November and opened the season by playing No. 3 Loudoun County tough in a three-set loss. They host fellow Dulles District contender Heritage Thursday.
“That kind of sets the bar for the season. That’s the level of play we’re going to be seeing, and we have to be at that level the rest of the season,” Carlton said. “We want to prove that we are a good team, and our desire to win is really what pushes our mental game and physical abilities.”
Severna Park got a boost off its bench Tuesday from junior defensive specialist Natalie Converse, who entered during the match’s second set and helped guide the Falcons to a 3-1 road victory over Spalding.
Converse finished the game with 10 digs, good for second most on the team behind senior Melissa Kapelewski’s 11. Senior Abbie Hoekstra led on offense for the Falcons, hammering home 15 kills in 25-8, 22-25, 25-16, 25-7 win for Severna Park (3-0).
The win is the third straight for first-year Severna Park coach Tim Dunbar, who had coached the Falcons previously but had left to spend more time with his family. Dunbar said his team, which returns all but two players from last season, is still working on transitioning from one coaching staff to the next.
“We’re sort of at that stage where we should be starting to jell,” Dunbar said. “It’s different for them and it’s different for me but it’s working.”
It was Schofield’s decision to move sophomore Meghan Kelley up from her initial spot as the team’s third outside hitter to starting right hitter that gave Centennial a leg up in its 25-19, 25-18, 25-22 victory. Kelley, who Schofield said was the Eagles’ player of the match, was second on the team with nine kills and had six service aces against the Vikings. Kelley’s teammate Trisha Mockatetris led the Eagles with 13 kills.
Centennial will finish its week Thursday on the road against Howard before heading into a pair of tough tests next week with a road match against Atholton on Sept. 18 and a home date against Glenelg Sept. 20.
Madison enters the rankings having won 12 of its last 14 sets and finishing third at the NVVA Invitational.... River Hill also makes its debut after a 3-0 season-opening victory over then-No. 4 Broadneck. ... Damascus setter Carly Marella had 49 assists in a marathon 3-2 win over Poolesville.
(Records through Tuesday)
1. Sherwood (3-0) LW: 1
2. Stone Bridge (5-0) LW: 2
3. Loudoun County (5-0) LW: 3
4. Damascus (3-0) LW: 6
5. Holy Cross (4-0) LW: 5
6. Centennial (1-0) LW: 7
7. Good Counsel (1-1) LW: 8
8. Flint Hill (3-0) LW: 9
9. River Hill (2-0) LW: NR
10. Madison (7-1) LW: NR