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Stone Bridge Volleyball Struggling Out of the Gate

Less seasoned Bulldogs looking to improve with each match.

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Stone Bridge lost lots of key players to graduation from last year's region semifinals team.

This year's Stone Bridge High girls' volleyball team is quite a bit younger and less experienced than the 2007 Bulldogs' squad that accomplished a banner campaign.

Last year's team finished 18-9 overall with a second-place finish in the strong Liberty District. At the 16-team Northern Region tournament, the Bulldogs advanced all the way to the semifinals before finally seeing their season end against Chantilly High.

This year's team has just two seniors on its roster and has gotten off to a tough 0-3 start. But Coach Jill Raschiatore said her Bulldogs are working hard to get better.

"They're trying hard," Raschiatore said. "We have a lot of new bodies on the court and they're trying to get used to each other. We're going through some growing pains. Our goals are to show improvement every day."

<b>THE TEAM'S</b> two co-captains are its seniors — setter Lilly Vera and middle hitter Sarah Norton. Both were First Team All-District players last year. Vera also garnered First Team All-Region and Honorable Mention All-State honors, while Norton was Second Team All-Region.

"They're very different players," Raschiatore said of her two 12th-grade leaders. "As a setter, Lilly runs the offense. She is very

quick, knows the game very well, has excellent court sense and plays hard all the time. Sarah is very quiet. She always gets the job done. She's our first option and very humble. The girls always look to her."

The Stone Bridge losses have come to Loudoun Valley, Robinson and Herndon high schools. Each of the setbacks were by scores of three games to one. Herndon, a member of the Concorde District, is unbeaten thus far. The Hornets defeated defending region champion Langley last week before winning their own Herndon Invitational last weekend.

"We've had a tough schedule, but I'd rather see us play good teams," Raschiatore said of her team's difficult early season schedule.

Stone Bridge was scheduled to play a home match earlier this week against Centreville on Tuesday. This Saturday, the Bulldogs will participate at their own SureBet Invitational, beginning at 11 a.m.

Participating teams will be Westfield, Loudoun Valley and Sheranado high schools. Valley took first place at the tournament last year.