The Langley High girls’ volleyball team is progressing about the way coach Susan Shifflett anticipated the Saxons would this season. Coming off a Northern Region title last year, Langley entered the current season as a younger squad than the experienced ’07 team that found so much success. Shifflett figured it would take the Saxons a portion of the season before things started clicking. And Langley has, in fact, found its stride. Entering this week, the team was a solid 7-4 overall.
"I’m very pleased right now," said Shifflett. "We’re very young, but we’re improving with each match."
<b>EVEN IN DEFEAT</b>, the Saxons have impressed their veteran coach. Against a talented Westfield High team on Sept. 22, Langley pressed the visiting Bulldogs before losing in the maximum five games. Trailing two games to one, Langley won the fourth game convincingly, 25-13, before falling, 19-21, in the deciding fifth game.
"That was a crazy, back and forth [match] all night long," said Shifflett. "It turned out to be a real fun match. I wasn’t sad we lost. It was a real good game and the kids performed real good."
Later last week, on Thursday, Langley came back strong in a three-game sweep win over host Maret School of Washington, D.C. The private school team, which competes in the Independent School League, has been a volleyball power in years past under longtime coach Liz Hall. This fall, Maret is not as strong. Nevertheless, it was a big win for the Saxons.
"They are always very solid," said Shifflett, of the Maret team under Hall. "We’ve played Maret the last 10 years. We weren’t very good [against them] back at the beginning. It took us five or six years before we beat them. Maret used to be a power."
Shifflett said coach Hall, who was selected as the Women’s Sports Foundation Private School Coach of the Year in the Wash.,D.C. area in 2003, has always been willing to play against Langley, even several years ago when the Saxons were not competitive against Maret. Hall has always been complimentary to Shifflett and the Saxons’ program she has built into a region contender.
Shifflett has loved having her team go up against Hall’s squads over the years.
"She’s a great coach," said Shifflett, of Hall. "She’s got her feet on the ground and knows what’s going on. She always has a very solid team. It’s a healthy competition."
<b>LANGLEY</b>, in the win over Maret, received good play particularly from sophomore middle hitter Kathryn Caine and senior outside hitter Logan Sebastian.
"We were real solid," said Shifflett, of her team’s showing. "Kathryn Caine had a great match. She is hitting the ball very hard. Logan Sebastian was very steady. She has eliminated a lot of her mistakes and become a lot better player."
Sebastian and junior setter Elysse Richardson are the two most experienced members on an overall younger Saxons’ squad.
"Our experience is not near what it has been in the past," said Shifflett. "This season is about getting back to fundamentals."
Langley opened this season back in late August at the UKROPS Showcase Tournament in Richmond. There, the Saxons won three of their four matches, with the victories coming over Virginia schools Rustburg High, Douglas Freeman (Richmond) and Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach). The Saxons also defeated Freeman in a non-tournament meeting on Sept. 13 in Richmond.
Langley wins over Northern Region teams this season have come against Jefferson and West Springfield.
The Saxons have three consecutive home matches coming up. Those competitions will be against Madison on Wednesday (Oct. 1), Marshall (Oct. 6) and Robinson (Oct. 7). The matches against Madison and Marshall are Liberty District meetings.
On Oct. 14, Langley will meet district and cross-town rival McLean in a road match. All of the upcoming matches begin at 7:15.