Time will tell whether or not the Langley High girls’ volleyball team develops the offensive punch needed to be a true contender this season.
The Saxons are a talented defensive team and they pass the ball extremely well on offense, according to veteran head coach Susan Shifflett. The key will be Langley’s ability to finish off points. If a few more big hitters emerge in the Saxons’ line-up, they could well be on their way to another successful autumn.
“I love their hustle and their defense,” said Shifflett, of her team. “We’re a very good defensive team and a great passing team. We just have to finish [off points]. If we can finish and get a couple of hitters on board, I think we have good potential.”
This team, like last year’s squad, remains fairly young with just three seniors on the 12-member varsity roster. Two years ago, a seasoned Langley squad captured the Northern Region title. But a less experienced Saxons’ team took the floor last year. Even so, Langley put together an impressive 17-7 record in 2008. The only downer for Shifflett’s team last year was that it did not fare particularly well in the postseason - losing to Stone Bridge in the Liberty District tournament finals after being ahead two games to none, then ultimately being swept by Herndon in a second round region playoff encounter.
Shifflett said her team struggled with postseason nerves in ’08. The Saxons had shown stellar improvement and grown well as a team over the course of that season, but could not quite put things all together at season’s end.
While this year’s Langley team remains somewhat young, Shifflett believes there is lots of potential for good success.
“We’re still a young team this year,” she said. “We’re right there. We can’t quite grasp that last ledge to pull ourselves over.”
But it’s still early yet and there is plenty of time for the pieces to come together for the Saxons, who earlier this month started the season off slowly with four losses to no wins at the Showcase Tournament in Richmond.
Since then, Langley has won two of three region matches. Going into this week, the Saxons, not counting the four matches in Richmond, held a 3-1 record. The wins have come over Centreville (season-opener on Sept. 1), Fairfax and, most recently, Jefferson on Sept. 16. The loss came in four games at Westfield on Sept. 14.
Shifflett said her team went up against some solid teams at the tournament in Richmond, which was held over the Labor Day weekend. The Saxons could not quite do enough to pull out any wins.
“It’s a very good tournament with some of the best teams in the state,” said the coach. “We weren’t terrible. We lost to Ocean Lakes [of Virginia Beach] in give [games]. We lost to good teams down there, but could have easily gone 4-0.”
<b>LANGLEY’S TOP TWO</b> players are senior Elysse Richardson and junior Kathryn Caine.
Richardson, who played libero position (defensive specialist) last year, has played at setter this fall. But Shifflett said her standout player could go back to her old position soon. Richardson plans to play the sport collegiately next year, but is still in the process of determining where she wants to go. Schools such as Rice University, the University of Colorado, and William & Mary have each expressed interest in Richardson becoming a part of their schools and volleyball programs.
“She’s the heart and soul of our team,” said Shifflett, of Richardson. “She’s energetic and comes out and leads our team.”
Caine, a year younger, plays middle hitter for the Saxons.
“She is strong, fast and hits the ball hard,” said Shifflett, of her one, true finisher on offense. “If we can get her the ball we can score.”
Another key member of the Saxons includes sophomore setter Nikki Hero.
Langley was set to have a busy week with home matches against region opponent South County on Tuesday and non-region foe Loudoun Valley on Thursday. Then, this Saturday, the Saxons are scheduled to take part in the three-team Big Pink Invitational at Robinson High School. The tournament proceeds will benefit the fight against breast cancer. In the morning’s first match, Langley will face the host Rams. Later, at around noon, the Saxons will meet Heritage High (Leesburg).
All the teams, Shifflett said, will be attired in pink.