Leesburg, Va. — The Heritage and Loudoun County High School volleyball teams have gotten to know each other pretty well the last two seasons. In a sport where district teams play each other twice during the regular season and then potentially meet one more time in the district tournament, the Pride and Lady Raiders played each other four times in 2017 and squared off for the fourth time in 2018 in the Dulles District championship on November 1.
“The familiarity is there. We know their athletes. The question is what can you do that they have not seen and how quickly can you adjust to what they’re trying to do that you have not seen,” Loudoun County head coach John Senchak said. “No matter how much you see each other, it’s a game of adjustments and whose players execute better.”
The Lady Raiders have gone 11-1 in the Dulles District the last two regular seasons, but both of those district losses have come at home against Heritage. Loudoun County, however, got their revenge on November 1 as they dispatched the Pride – 25-23, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21 – to once again win the Dulles District tournament.
“To be honest, for me, I’m relieved because the expectation is that this team will win,” said Senchak, who is in his first year at Loudoun County after leading Tuscarora to the VHSL 5A State title in 2017. “The Raiders are walking out of here as champions, and that’s what they’re after, but it’s a lot of weight for them to carry, so I try to balance the expectations on them and the ability of the team to meet those expectations.”
As for Heritage, it was a night of constantly playing from behind. The Pride trailed 14-7 in the first set before taking a 21-19 lead, but the Lady Raiders rallied to win the set 25-22. In the third set, the Pride found themselves down 10-2, but they were able to come back and win in a wild back-and-forth set that saw nine ties, starting at 11-11, and multiple lead changes. They fell behind again in the fourth set 22-14 and rallied to score seven straight points only to see the Lady Raiders score the final three points to close out the match.
“That’s been a trademark of our team from the very beginning of the season,” Heritage head coach Walter Collazo said. “We play hard, we look forward and try not to concentrate on what happened in the play before.”
Both teams are back in action on November 5 in VHSL Region 4C semifinals. Loudoun County (25-1) will host a familiar opponent in the Millbrook Pioneers, who snapped the Lady Raiders’ twelve-year region championship winning streak in 2017.
“They’re going to be a far different team [then we saw earlier in the season]; they’re going to be far better, but the Raiders are far better,” Senchak said. “You want to be playing your best volleyball in October and November. We’re not going to take them lightly; there’s no ‘yeah we beat you once, we’re going to beat you again.’ They’re still alive for a reason. They’re a good volleyball team.”
In another VHSL Region 4C semifinal, Heritage (18-6) will travel to Fauquier High School to take on the Northwestern District champion Falcons on November 5.
“Hopefully we’ll have a better night and try not to play from behind as much because we have to invest a lot of energy to get the game even to try to then push forward towards the end of the set,” Collazo said. “I think that was critical today and that’s why we came up short.”
The winner of the semifinal matches on November 5 will qualify for the VHSL 4A State tournament and will play each other November 7 in the VHSL Region 4C championship, which means the Lady Raiders and Pride could potentially square off again, if both teams can get through their opening round game.