Leesburg, Va. — Coming into the season, the Heritage High School volleyball team knew 2019 would be different. The Pride graduated nine girls in the spring, including three girls over six feet tall. To add to the challenge, Heritage scheduled three perennial powers in its first four games of the season: Briar Woods, Millbrook, and Stone Bridge. After getting swept by Briar Woods and Stone Bridge, the Pride fell in five to Millbrook as their momentum started to turn.
“We’re trying to rebuild, build confidence, and establish roles,” Heritage head coach Walter Collazo said. “I’m using pretty much all the girls in the non-conference part of our schedule to try to give them some experience before the games really count.”
Following the loss to Millbrook, Heritage looked to bounce back at home against non-district foe Woodgrove on September 9 in Leesburg. The Pride battled through a red hot Wolverines team – 25-11, 23-25, 25-22, 25-13 – to get back on track heading into Dulles District play.
“Obviously, we started with a pretty tough schedule, and we have Loudoun County coming up on September 16,” Collazo said. “It’s good to get in the rhythm, so we can be where we want to be come October.”
After cruising through the first set, Heritage quickly fell into an 18-9 hole in the second set, forcing Collazo to take a timeout. Out of that timeout, the Pride rallied off five straight points to cut their deficit to 18-14. Heritage used that momentum to eventually draw to within one at 21-20, forcing Woodgrove head coach Carmel Keilty to call a timeout of her own.
Heritage – led this fall by 2018 All-Region 4C first teamer Joanna Plowman and hard-hitting right side Nina Brkic – eventually tied things up at 22-22 then 23-23, but the Wolverines were resilient, holding off the Pride, 25-23.
“Early on in the season, we haven’t come up on the upper end of close games,” Collazo said. “It was important that we dug ourselves out of a hole and made it a game. We faltered at the end, but it really set the tempo energy-wise, so we could take over the third and fourth sets.”
Obviously, we started with a pretty tough schedule. It’s good to get in the rhythm, so we can be where we want to be come October.
–Coach Walter Collazo
The Pride used their effort in the second to lift them past the Wolverines in a close third set, before knocking off Woodgrove, 25-13, in the fourth and final set of the night.
The win gets Heritage (0-0, 2-3) back on track before the Pride host powerhouse Loudoun County in their first Dulles District match of the season on September 16.
“We have to control what we do best. We keep working on what we’re not as good at, so we can hopefully develop those skills,” Collazo said. “We’re trying to learn a new style of volleyball – more ball control, more defense, more speeding up the tempo – so we can hopefully neutralize the advantage of the bigger, stronger teams have over us.”