Leesburg, Va. — The Loudoun County and Millbrook High School volleyball teams have some recent history. After falling to Millbrook, 3-2, in the VHSL Region 4C championship in 2017, the Lady Raiders got the last laugh, defeating the Pioneers, 3-0, in a VHSL 4A State semifinal before eventually winning their VHSL-record tenth state championship.
So when 6-0 Loudoun County and 9-0 Millbrook met for their rematch on September 17 in Leesburg, the stakes were high. The Lady Raiders used a major second set run to hand the Pioneers their first loss of the season, 25-18, 25-13, 25-18.
“This is a game we’ve had circled on our calendar since the schedule came out,” Loudoun County head coach John Senchak said. “We knew they would be good. That’s a high-quality team. But we had a plan, and we executed tonight.”
Senchak is in his first season at the helm of the Lady Raiders’ dynasty after leading Tuscarora to a VHSL 5A State championship in 2017.
“Coaches come and go. Players come and go. They understand that,” Senchak said. “It was very difficult to leave Tuscarora. But the transition here has been fine. We worked hard to earn the trust of our players, and they really appreciated that. They’re starting to respond now.”
And respond they did. After Millbrook jumped out a 9-5 lead to start the second set, Senchak took a time out and challenged his team to make just one play to swing the momentum.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Senchak said. “When you get it, you got to hold it.”
The Lady Raiders rose to the challenge as senior hitter Ashley Rubino smashed home a kill to start what would end up being a 20-4 run for Loudoun County. That rally, however, would not have been possible without the defensive excellence of senior libero Josi Williams, who picked up dig after dig in the second set to elevate her team to a 25-13 win.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find your groove early in a set,” Williams said. “But when you can go on a serving-run like that, it definitely helped us find our groove and finish the match.”
Williams and the Lady Raiders fended off a late Millbrook effort in the third set to complete the sweep and remain unbeaten.
“We’re just going to keep on working and trying to win points,” Williams said. “We don’t win games, we don’t win matches; we win points.”