Purcellville, Va. — After defeating the Titans in their regular season matchup, the Loudoun Valley Vikings knew they would have their work cut out for them against a tenacious Dominion defense which defends every part of the floor and can hit at all six positions. However, led by senior hitter Faith Nguyen, senior middle Kayla Bolen, and junior setter Rebecca Nguyen, the Vikings were able to navigate past the Titans—25-18, 25-21, 25-18—on April 6 in Purcellville.
“My girls played every ball, they were going after every ball. We have such a great group of kids. They’ve worked really hard to get to this point,” Loudoun Valley head coach Carmel Keilty said. “Tonight could have gone either way, so we’re just excited we came out on the winning end.”
To start the match, Loudoun Valley and Dominion played a back-and-forth first set in which the Vikings eventually pulled away, 25-18, grabbing the early momentum.
The Vikings stumbled out of the gate in the second set but quickly rebounded eventually taking a lead midway through the set. Dominion, however, wouldn’t go away as the Titans battled back to even things out at 20-20. Despite the Titans sticking around, Loudoun Valley eventually took a 2-0 lead, 25-21.
“Dominion’s extremely scrappy, they have hitters in every position, and they play every ball,” Keilty said. “That makes it difficult to defend them.”
In the third set, No. 2 Loudoun Valley was in complete control from start to finish, using the energy from the packed gym to complete their sweep of No. 3 Dominion to earn a shot to play for the Dulles District title and a berth to the VHSL Region 4C tournament.
“It was a great atmosphere. I think that’s what the kids miss,” Keilty said. “Just to have the opportunity to play a season this year has meant everything. We’re just grateful. Whatever we get from here on out is icing on the cake.”
And what’s been a weird year for most teams, proved even weirder for Loudoun Valley who transitioned head coaches during the COVID-19 pandemic, after 18th-year head coach Laird Johnson announced he’d be stepping down following the 2019 season.
More than three decades after she first opened the Loudoun Valley High School volleyball program in 1989-1990, Carmel Keilty jumped at the opportunity to retake the reins in Purcellville, where she’s helped the Vikings to a 13-1 mark on the season.
“It’s a little cliche I guess, but it’s a dream come true,” Keilty said. “To have started here in ‘89-’90, then watch Coach Johnson do such a great job for so many years, then to be able to come back and finish my career here means a lot. To have these kids this year, the talent level is through the roof; I’m just honored to be able to coach this group.”
Under Keilty, Loudoun Valley has lost just a single match this season in a Dulles District battle against perennial power Loudoun County, who the Vikings then turned around and beat 3-1 in their second bout of the season.
The Vikings will get another chance at the Captains when they travel to Loudoun County High School for the rubber match and Dulles District championship game on April 8 in Leesburg.
“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Keilty said. “These kids have worked so hard the last few weeks at practice on the little things. We’re just going to go in with the same approach, and hopefully, it’s a great match.”