When he was making his team’s schedule last spring, Broadneck volleyball Coach Scott Graf faced a dilemma.
Anne Arundel County, Graf explained, requires its coaches to finalize its schedules by June, earlier than most other Maryland schools. The policy, along with Graf’s desire to schedule tough out-of-county opponents, forced the coach to create a bizarre schedule for the Bruins. Broadneck (0-2) opened its with back-to-back matches against top-ranked Sherwood and Howard County power River Hill Sept. 6 and 7 followed by nearly two weeks of inactivity.
“Yeah, it’s just the way it worked out,” Graf said. “If I could have spread it out differently, I would have. Our county makes us have our schedule set by June, and a lot of other parts of Maryland do not. So other coaches are like ‘what? You want to schedule already? We don’t even have our county schedule yet.’ So I have to kind of get what I get when I get it.”
Broadneck opened its season with a 3-1 loss to Sherwood, the only dropped set for the Warriors all season. By the time they took the court against River Hill for the Hawks’ season-opener the next day, the toll of playing such tough competition back-to-back resulted in a 3-0 loss for the Bruins.
“My ladies were a little bit tired against the River Hill folks. And it was their first match so they were a little pumped and we were a little tired,” Graf said. “. . .To play Sherwood so tough on one day and come out flat the next day, I mean it could have just been a scheduling conflict on my part.”
Graf said the time off has given the Bruins a chance to rest and heal early injuries. Senior outside hitter Margaret Doody’s knee, which she injured against Sherwood and played through against River Hill, has gotten a chance to rest, and sophomore Maria Lim has worked to heal a finger she injured in practice during the layoff. After two weeks, Graf said he’s just recently been able to put a full, healthy starting lineup on the court.
The break has also provided time for the lesson from Broadneck’s season-opening stumble to sink in. Practices have been more intense, Graf said. As the Bruins prepare to open their county schedule Thursday against Meade, Graf said his expectations for the season haven’t changed.
“What it does is it prepares my team for what they need to work on and they have to figure out how hard they’re going to have to work to get to the level we need to get to it,” Graf said of his team’s start. “I expect to be in the top two and play for the regional championship. That’s my expectation… I think if it all goes to plan, we’ll be going late in the season.”
W.T. Woodson Coach Len Palaschak rotated between Jenna Yost, a first-year varsity player, and sophomore incumbent Mackenzie Reed at libero through the team’s first 10 matches with good results. But with two games remaining before the Cavaliers (9-2) open Virginia AAA Patriot District play, he opted for an experiment.
Yost got the start in Tuesday’s visit to then-No. 10 Madison and Reed moved to the outside.
“We’ve been trying Jenna out in practices, and we decided Madison would be a good test case for her because they’re a good team and it was an out-of-district match,” Palaschak said. “For some reason, the team clicks better with Mackenzie on the outside and Jenna at libero.”
If Yost’s debut is any indicator, the Cavaliers may never go back. Woodson rolled to a 25-22, 25-17, 25-20 sweep for its sixth straight win, and Yost was a catalyst.
A 5-foot-5 soccer player who picked up volleyball her freshman year, Yost looked poised and at times possessed anchoring the back line. She recorded 19 digs in all — none more important than the second-set pancake — and on the next point she absorbed a blast off the chin from Madison hitter Amy O’Connor and then lunged for another dig seconds later to help take the point. From there, Yost served an ace and won four straight service points during a pivotal 18-4 Woodson run that appeared to deflate the host Warhawks.
Meantime, Reed, whose vertical jump is one of the highest on the roster, remained a defensive force with 14 digs but also contributed on the attack where she chipped in four kills while playing through all six rotations.
“Mackenzie is just a great all-around player, and she showed that tonight,” Yost said. “I really enjoyed the experience because I didn’t know that I was capable of doing this. But my coach gave me a pep talk before the game and told me ‘You’re a great athlete, and you’ve got all the skills. You just need to apply them.’
“That just gave me a real confidence boost and helped me to help my team win.”
Loudoun County continues to mow through the Virginia AA Dulles District; the Raiders have yet to drop a set this year.... Holy Cross moves up a spot after impressive sweeps of then-No. 7 Good Counsel and Paul VI....Glenelg enters the rankings on the heels of a 3-2 win against then-No. 8 River Hill. The Gladiators will face No. 6 Centennial Thursday night.
1. Sherwood (5-0)
2. Stone Bridge (11-0)
3. Loudoun County (7-0)
4. Holy Cross (7-0)
5. Damascus (4-0)
6. Centennial (2-0)
7. W.T. Woodson (9-2)
8. Flint Hill (7-1)
9. Glenelg (3-0)
10. Potomac Falls (7-1)