Leesburg, Va. — For the first time in nearly 500 days, the Heritage High School volleyball team took their home court in an effort to pick up right where they left off last season. In 2019, the Pride finished 16-8 overall with a 9-3 record in the Dulles District, but most importantly, they defended their home court, losing just twice at Heritage, while winning 8 straight games on their home floor to close out the season.
After their 2020 fall season was pushed to the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pride battled through some adversity to win their ninth straight game at Heritage and improve to 2-0 on the young season, defeating rival Tuscarora in four sets: 25-19, 25-16, 26-28, 25-8.
“I’m just glad to see the kids playing and having a sense of normalcy again,” Heritage first-year head coach Josh Judd said. “It’s probably what these kids need more than anything.”
With a new head coach, just five returning players, and a season shifted to the spring, the Pride came out of the gates a little bit slow, falling into an early 8-4 hole before rallying off 13 straight points to take a commanding lead in the first set. Heritage used that rally to win the first set, 25-19, and used their momentum to win the second set, 25-16.
Much like they had done in the second set, the Pride jumped out to a big lead in the third but one too many unforced errors and the presence of Tuscarora junior middle Ashbey Cornwell allowed the Huskies to climb right back into it.
“Tuscarora has a really good middle, and she was getting a lot of their kills and taking out our setter. Their libero was playing lights out defense against our strongest hitter,” Judd said. “We had to make some adjustments to avoid their best players which really kept us out of our game for a little bit.”
Trailing 24-23 late in the third, Heritage turned to experienced senior rightside Nina Brkic, who slammed home a kill to tie things up at 24-24 as the Pride bench erupted. However, after exchanging the next 6 points, Tuscarora eventually won the advantage then the set, 28-26.
After the set loss, Heritage entered the fourth set with a fire in their bellies, connecting on pass after pass and kill after kill as Brkic started to take over, cruising to the match win, 25-8.
“I knew we could do better, but I wasn’t stressing the third set loss,” Judd said. “Obviously, by the score in the fourth set, you can see the girls had it in them.”
While the win is a nice added bonus, the Pride were just extremely happy to be back on their court donning the red and black—albeit under different circumstances.
Playing for their high school teams in the spring is a different feel for most volleyball players who typically transition to club volleyball in the winter and spring, and some players had to make the tough decision to stay on the club circuit rather than represent their school.
“This is the first time club and high school volleyball have really collided,” Heritage junior defensive specialist Jackie Lewis said. “I know for a lot of girls who wanted to play high school, it means a lot to at least have a season. We just want to go out there and have fun.”