High school volleyball season is underway in the always competitive Washington, D.C., region. Here are several key questions to track as fall unfolds on area courts.
Loudoun County was hit with a major blow in the offseason when two-time All-Met Coach of the Year Jenica Brown resigned after leading the school to its sixth state title. Junior varsity coach Sherrilyn Hanna has taken over the helm and she’s no stranger to the lofty annual expectations Leesburg. Hanna’s daughters, Marguerite and Julianne, the latter of whom will serve as an assistant on Sherrilyn’s staff, claimed three state titles at Loudoun County.
Hanna is blessed with tons of returning talent as junior 6-foot-3 North Carolina commit Taylor Borup (320 kills in 2013) is back at outside hitter. Borup will combine with seniors Hannah Vandegrift and Ciara Kain, who will both have an expanded role this season.
The Raiders boast experience with seven seniors on the roster, and versatile setter Olivia Aycock will be a leader as they seek their third consecutive straight state title.
There may not be a dominant team in the county, but look for Sherwood, behind new first-year Coach Ben Sanger, to battle for the 4A state title once again. The former junior varsity and varsity assistant coach takes over the Warriors for Brian McCarty, who stepped down after seven years to spend more time with his newborn child. McCarty will be an assistant on Sanger’s staff this season. Senior outside hitter Kerra Tirdao will be back to pace Warriors. . . .
Poolesville sophomore attacker Caroline Lang and senior setter Allyson Convers will be determined to lead the young Falcons back to the 2A state championship game after losing to Patuxent in the final last season. The team will have extra motivation, as Fran DuVall will be coaching her 17th and final season at Poolesville, rounding out a stellar 35-year career as coach. . . .
Wootton returns one of the area’s best setters in senior Jessica Wang. . . . No. 8 Damascus was hit hard by graduation after ending Sherwood’s 68-game winning-streak and winning the 3A state championship last season.
Flint Hill Coach Carroll Anderson has a senior-laden squad and looks primed for a repeat sweep of the Independent School League, City and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association titles. The Huskies lost just one senior, middle blocker Erica Narel (North Carolina State), and have experience that is unrivaled in the area. Libero Gracie Anderson, setter Abbie Fellows, outside hitter Michelle Abt and defensive specialist Luella Garner are all four-year starters. All-Met senior outside hitter Ally Ford and junior Morgan McKnight were dominant at the net a year ago as they combined for 461 kills.
The Huskies didn’t lose a set in ISL play last season, but Madeira has versatile outside hitter Jordan Issac (143 kills and 180 digs) back in the fold. To prepare for conference play, Flint Hill will face another formidable non-conference schedule with matchups against Virginia state semifinalists Broad Run and Osbourn Park and Washington Catholic Athletic Conference finalist Paul VI.
Until last season, at least one Howard County team had played for a state title 25 years running. No. 10 Glenelg, which lost to eventual-champion Damascus in five tight sets in the Maryland 3A semifinals, was the closest to representing the county, and might have the best shot at doing it again this fall.
The Gladiators return two of the best players in the county in senior outside hitter Sarah Girard and her sister, junior setter Rachael Girard. Glenelg, which did not lose a home game last season, will face contenders Mount Hebron, Centennial, Wilde Lake, Howard and River Hill at home before traveling to face the Hawks in their final game of the season on Oct. 22 in a potential county championship game. . . .
Centennial looks to bounce back from a 9-8 season with a familiar but new face behind the bench. Michael Bossom, who led the Eagles to eight state titles from 1994 to 2005, takes over as coach for Larry Schofield.
With All-Met Rhamat Alhassan now spiking balls at Florida, Holy Cross will have to find a new presence in the front of its attack. After winning back-to-back WCAC titles, the Tartans will look to senior outside hitter Ellie Goodwin and middle hitter Megan McTigue to control the action at the net. . . .
WCAC finalist Paul VI was the lone team to defeat Holy Cross in conference play a year ago. The Panthers lost four seniors, but senior outside hitter Dawson Boese leads a talented senior class. . . . Good Counsel 5-foot-11 junior Megan Conger led the team in kills (220) last season. But Conger’s defense (130 digs and 28 blocks in 2013) will be key to the Falcons’ chances of landing their first WCAC title since 2011.
Coming off its first state title in school history, Langley returns standout outside hitters Jessica Donaldson and Rachel Andrejev. But the Saxons will have to sift through a tough Conference 6 with No. 6 Madison and a Yorktown team that knocked them out of the conference playoffs last season. Madison is off to a strong start after winning the Cassell’s Invitational over the weekend.
Osbourn Park, Forest Park, Patriot, Chantilly and South County are also contenders in the state’s largest classification. Georgetown commit Kenzie Higareda (515 digs) will be tough to score upon once again for Forest Park.
Chantilly has a Sept. 22 date with the defending state champions and returns nine players. Last season, Chargers junior Emily Sciorra took home second-team all-region honors and was named the Conference 5 Libero of the Year.
Broadneck plays one of the toughest schedules in the area, opening at home against Centennial on Sept. 5 and facing Sherwood on Sept. 11. The Bruins have top area talents in junior setter Jordyn Beans and senior libero Katie Byrne among a team loaded with height. Sophomore Caroline Wise, senior Carley Cleland and junior Sophia Shepard are all middle blockers who are at least 6 feet tall.
Look for Broadneck to compete with South River and No. 7 Severna Park, led by second-team All-Met senior outside hitter Madison Carter and senior outside hitter Sophie Hoekstra, respectively, for the county and 4A East region titles.
Riding a 49-game winning streak, two-time defending state champion Loudoun County will put its area-leading run of victories to the test Wednesday against Western Loudoun rival Stone Bridge, the last team to beat the the Raiders. . . . The ISL, City, and VISAA champion Flint Hill Huskies lost just one senior and play a formidable non-conference schedule yet again. . . . Defending Virginia 6A champion Langley and Madison are both state title contenders.
1. Loudoun County (31-0)
2. Flint Hill (33-3)
3. Stone Bridge (26-3)
4. Langley (26-3)
5. Holy Cross (25-2)
6. Madison (29-3)
7. Severna Park (17-3)
8. Damasucus (17-2)
9. Forest Park (24-5)
10. Glenelg (14-3)
Bubble: Sherwood (19-3), Paul VI (25-6), Chantilly (13-9)
(Last year’s final record in parentheses)