For the Robinson Secondary girls’ volleyball team, getting back onto the winning track was all but mandatory when it hosted cross-town opponent Fairfax this past Monday night, Sept. 27.
The Rams, who a year ago captured the Concorde District tournament title and advanced all the way to the Northern Region semifinals, entered Monday’s competition against the Rebels having lost four straight matches. While a loss to the talented Rebels would not have ruined its season, Robinson desperately needed to remove the burden of the losing streak and gain some confidence going into the latter half of the fall season.
“We started the season off real well at 3-1, but that’s when we had our four-game losing streak,” said Robinson senior outside hitter Susie Murach, who a year ago earned both district and region MVP honors. “I think the win [over Fairfax] last night was a relief. We did real well and played like we’re capable of.”
Robinson won the match, three games to one. Fairfax won the second game to tie the match at 1-1. Then, in game three, the Rebels built a 22-16 lead before the Rams rallied to win the game and garner control of the match.
“In that third game, we just broke down,” said Fairfax coach Christine Zanellato. “Had we won that game I think we would have won the match.”
Robinson helped itself by playing an overall crisp match with few errors.
“We just hadn’t been clicking [during the losing streak],” said Murach. “Last night we finally put a lot of pressure on [our opponent] with good serves and less errors. We had been making too many errors – mis-serves and hitting balls into the net.”
Robinson’s four consecutive losses going into the Fairfax match had come to formidable opponents in Flint Hill, 0-3; Loudoun Valley, 2-3; Langley, 0-3; and Heritage High (Leesburg), 2-3. Now, the Rams will be looking to put a win streak together following their victory over Fairfax (10-3).
“It came together for us as a team,” said Robinson coach Jill Pearson, of the Fairfax match. “Obviously, Fairfax is a rival of ours. I think Christy [Zanellato] does a real nice job with that group. They run a nice offense and they play scrappy on defense.”
Robinson is led by senior co-captains Murach and Tiffany Connatser, a setter. Both players will be competing at the collegiate level next year – Murach at Wingate University (N.C.) and Connatser at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Murach believes Robinson has the potential to successfully defend its district crown and make a strong run at the 16-team regional tournament. Her dream would be to see the Rams qualify for states. The top two teams in the region advance to states.
“Last year we went to the region semifinals,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll go further this year. With the district schedule starting, I think we’ll get better and get pumped. It would be amazing for our team to get all-state rings.”
The Rams were scheduled to play two more matches this week – at West Springfield on Wednesday, Sept. 29, and home versus Lake Braddock on Thursday, Sept. 30.
THE FAIRFAX SQUAD, just 4-9 a year ago, has had a remarkable turnaround season.
“We have more experience and a lot of our players played club volleyball,” said coach Zanellato. “We are a real balanced team and work very hard.”
The Rebels began the year with wins over Herndon, Paul VI, Woodson and Washington-Lee. Following a loss to the same Woodson team in a second meeting, Fairfax reeled off four more wins in a row – Georgetown Visitation, South County, McLean and Herndon – to improve its record to 8-1. Since then, the Rebels are 2-3 with the wins coming over West Springfield and Heritage.
Two of Fairfax’s top players are underclassmen - Megan McKenzie, a sophomore setter/outside hitter, and junior outside hitter Diana Hartford.
The team’s three senior leaders are middle hitter Kevyn Richmond, defensive specialist Kelsey Phillips, and setter/outside hitter Andye Belcher.
“When [those three] are focused and have good games we tend to have good matches,” said Zanellato, of the trio.
Fairfax was scheduled to play on Wednesday, Sept. 29 of this week against visiting Marshall.