When game-planning to stop an elite volleyball team, it’s only natural to try and limit the damage an opponent’s one or two best hitters can inflict.
But when game-planning to stop the Chantilly Chargers, go ahead, try and stop their two best hitters. There are two or three more ready to pick up the slack.
During Saturday night’s Northern Region title game at Centreville High School, four Chantilly players posted at least five kills as the Chargers rolled to an easy 3-0 win over Westfield. It was the Chargers’ first region crown since 2004.
“If one person has a bad game, it’s not like we only have one player,” said junior outside hitter Samantha Reeves, who finished with exactly five kills against the Bulldogs (20-7). “We don’t just depend on one person. We all play as a team.”
The Chargers have now won 73 of 80 games this season and will host Hanover (Central Region runner-up) in the Virginia AAA state quarterfinals Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Chantilly (24-1) flexed its offensive muscles early and often, capturing the game’s momentum by sprinting out to an 11-4 lead in Game 1. Junior outside hitter Jamie Gorman (seven kills, two blocks) led the Chargers with five kills during the 25-8 win.
In Game 2, Westfield kept it close throughout but Chantilly closed on a 5-1 run to win, 25-20. In the loss, Westfield senior middle blocker Kelly Murray and sophomore outside hitter Emily Kohler combined for five Bulldog kills.
The final game featured Chantilly’s top two hitters, Reeves and junior middle hitter Allison Williams. Reeves had three kills during Game 3 and Williams added five of her team-high nine kills in the 25-14 win.
“They just came out with the desire and heart to win,” said Chantilly coach Charles Ezigbo. “Westfield is a tough team -- every time we see them they get tougher and tougher -- but our girls just really wanted to win tonight.”
Westfield struggled to develop any offensive continuity Saturday, according to coach Jim Bour. The Bulldogs are a team -- like many -- that feeds heavily off of momentum and emotion and Bour’s bunch found neither from the outset Saturday night.
<b>MANY OF WESTFIELD'S</b> early offensive attacks missed by only inches, but those inches started to mount and against a team like Chantilly, it’s difficult to stage such a comeback.
“We could never get it going,” said Bour, whose team will travel to Mills Godwin (Central Region champions) on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. “Things start rolling downhill and you try to get [the momentum] back, but you can only fight so long and you start to get beat up a little bit.”
“Whoever has the momentum always has the [edge],” added Chantilly’s Williams. “It’s a lot easier to stay up when you’re up.”
Chantilly was able to corral Northern Region Player of the Year Sammy Spees, who finished with four kills but did lead the team with nine digs. Senior setter Kat Lanigan led the Bulldogs with 16 assists and Kohler posted a team-high nine kills.
As an upstart and unheralded group of sophomores last season, Chantilly lost to Centreville in the Concorde District title game and Langley during the region final.
Those losses stung at the time, but with a year of experience, Chantilly played with a sense of entitlement Saturday night that led to an easier-than-expected win.
“Last year we knew we’d be pretty good,” Gorman said, “This year we knew we’d be good too, but we didn’t expect to be this good.”