Ashburn, Va. — The first serve of the night not getting over the night could have set the tone for the Stone Bridge High School volleyball team. But the Bulldogs didn’t let it. After evening things out at 1-1, Stone Bridge senior outside hitter Sophia DeNayer rallied off five straight service points, and the Bulldogs were well on their way to a first set win.
Stone Bridge used that momentum to escape the second set with a win then dominate the third to defeat Patrick Henry in straight sets—25-18, 25-22, 25-9—and, for the first time since 2013, claim the VHSL Region 5D championship on November 9 in Ashburn.
“It feels really good to sweep a team, and it’s so much less stressful on everyone on the team,” DeNayer said. “It feels amazing winning in straight sets especially in the region championship.”
Coming off a come-from-behind win over Riverside in a region semifinal—where Stone Bridge battled from two down—the straight-set win was a refreshing change for the Bulldogs, who only won in straight sets twice in October.
While they won the region championship game in just three sets, Patrick Henry made sure the Bulldogs needed to fight for each and every point.
“Patrick Henry is a very fine ball club,” Stone Bridge head coach Jill Raschiatore said. “They have a lot of weapons: great setting, great defense. We had a lot of players step up and play as a team.”
After jumping out to a modest lead in the second set, the Bulldogs found themselves in a 17-16 deficit late in the set. Stone Bridge caught a break, when trailing 19-18, junior middle Juliana Fedak made a nice tip, to even things back out at 19-19 and get the Bulldogs’ first rotation back on the floor.
“We just needed to come together as a team and motivate each other,” DeNayer said. “We stayed strong and focused on one point at a time.”
With their top three rotations on the floor, the Bulldogs relied on the poised setting of junior setter Trisha Camille Guevara and the heavy hitting of sophomore opposite Gabriella Flamish and sophomore outside hitter Lilah Stevens to hold off the Patriots and win the second set, 25-22.
“We just went back to the basics and focused on what got us here,” Raschiatore said. “We wanted to control the ball when it was on our side and not really focus on what they were doing.”
That refocused second set proved damning for the Patriots in the third set as the Bulldogs came out firing on all cylinders—once again relying on Camille Guevara’s ability to share the ball across the entire court—as Stone Bridge dominated the third set from start to finish, 25-9.
“The more balanced we are, the better our team does,” Raschiatore said. “As long as we’re passing well and our defense is giving Trish balls she can spread around evenly, we’re a much better team for it. We really did that well tonight.”
The win gives Stone Bridge home court advantage through the first two rounds of the VHSL 5A State tournament, however, the Bulldogs are just focused on the match ahead, when they’ll host VHSL Region 5C runner up Mills Godwin on November 13 in Ashburn.
“It definitely helps to be at home physically and psychologically,” Raschiatore said. “We have a really nice fanbase right now; they’re doing a nice job of showing up and being loud.”