When his team suffered a lopsided 3-0 defeat in last year’s Northern Region title game against Langley, Chantilly volleyball coach Charles Ezigbo wasn’t upset.
He knew that success would just take a little bit of time. His team had the talent. It just lacked that big-game experience.
And with only two seniors gone from last year’s 17-6 squad, Chantilly entered this season with something to accompany that newfound big-game experience: expectations.
The Chargers (25-1) suffered an early-season loss to Chancellor and haven’t looked back since. They have yet to lose another match, despite the fact that every opponent has been gunning for them and would like nothing more than to pull off a headline-driving upset.
“We worked so hard this year, and we’re so much more mature,” said junior middle hitter Allison Williams, following the Chargers’ 3-0 win over Westfield to claim their first region title since 2004. “We just came out really wanting it, not wanting to repeat last year.”
“I think the experience gives us confidence, and I think they just had the confidence [Saturday],” Ezigbo said.
With Tuesday night’s win over Hanover (Eastern Region runner-up) — another lopsided 3-0 victory, as the Chargers have won 76 of 83 games this season — Chantilly has won 25 straight matches and will face Albemarle (Northwest Region champion) at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center at 5 p.m. for the Virginia AAA semifinals.
“Last year we knew we’d be pretty good,” said junior outside hitter Jamie Gorman, who totaled seven kills and two blocks during the Westfield match. “This year we knew we’d be good, but we didn’t expect to be this good.”
<b>A NORTHERN REGION</b> team hasn’t won a Virginia AAA state title since the Virginia High School League started the playoff format that’s used today back in 1993. But this weekend, two teams from the same district might split the tab at the same Richmond restaurant.
In addition to Chantilly’s trip down south, Westfield, which lost to the Chargers four times this season, scored an impressive road win over Mills Godwin on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs will play Landstown on Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Siegel Center.
“It all starts from the beginning,” said Westfield coach Jim Bour. “If we get close calls and they start landing in, you get the momentum and it’s always about momentum.”
Westfield wasn’t able to steal any momentum against Chantilly. The Chargers raced out to an 11-3 lead in Game 1 before closing Game 2 on a 5-1 run. Four Chargers posted five or more kills, including a team-high nine from Williams.
Sophomore middle hitter Christy Harper added five kills and a team-high five blocks, while junior outside hitter Samantha Reeves rounded out the scoring with five kills.
“If one person has a bad game, it’s not like we only have one player,” said Reeves, who had a team-high eight kills Tuesday against Hanover. “We don’t depend on one person. We all play as a team.”
“We saw last year that [Chantilly] was a young team and got beat up by Langley,” said Bour, whose Bulldogs improved to 21-7 with the state quarterfinal win. “They came back determined and that’s what experience does.”