With elevated expectations in 2010, Lake Braddock head volleyball coach Mike Clark said the Bruins expected to compete with the top teams in the Northern Region. Facing South County on Oct. 14, the Bruins came out like a team on a mission.
South County is ranked No. 2 in the latest version of the Northern Region Volleyball Coaches Association top 10 poll and reached the state championship match last season. While the Stallions have the credentials, Lake Braddock played like the better team early, winning the first set, 25-12, and taking a 19-17 lead in set two. The fired-up Bruins were working toward a statement win, but the Stallions quickly turned things around, showing why they are considered one of the top teams in the region.
South County closed the second set on an 8-1 run and won the next two sets for a 3-1 (12-25, 25,-20, 25-21, 25-21) victory at South County Secondary. The Bruins were within shouting distance in each of the last three sets but couldn’t find a way to get it done.
Clark credited the Bruins’ hot start to strong serving.
"We came out and served really well against South County," the coach wrote in an e-mail. "There were very few sideouts in the first game and we kept South County out of system and thus they had a hard time getting the ball to Simone [Antwi] and no one else really picked up the slack for them. The rest of the match was a different story as their other players played very well and we struggled to keep aggressive serves in play.
"In the second game, everything was different. There were so many sideouts that both teams ran out of substitutions. In the end of that game, we got stuck in a few bad rotations due to running out of subs and that really cost us."
Antwi, South County’s 6-foot-2 University of Florida-bound middle blocker, had five kills in the opening-game loss. She stepped up her performance later in the match, however, and finished with 26.
Clark was pleased with the way senior middle blocker Logan Russell handled playing against such a quality opponent.
"Logan Russell is probably one of the toughest matchups for Simone in the entire region and I think that helped our team out," Clark wrote. "Simone usually brings a fear factor to the match and it is easy to see why. But, with Logan up there coming reasonably close to matching her swing for swing and block for block, it really gave our team an aggressive attitude."
Russell finished with nine kills and Catherine Jamshidi tallied seven. Tara Fialkow recorded 23 digs.
Lake Braddock bounced back the following game, beating Lee 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-18) on Oct. 18, improving the Bruins’ record to 12-4. Kyra Rodi had 10 kills for the Bruins against the Lancers.
Lake Braddock will face West Springfield, T.C. Williams and Annandale before the start of the Patriot District Tournament, where the Bruins will have to battle quality opponents for a shot at a district title.
"In the end, we gave it a good fight but just weren't completely on our game," Clark said of the match against South County. "To knock off the reigning district champs you have to be completely on your game."
South County head coach Dave Prahl thinks the two teams will meet again.
"They’re an awesome team," Prahl said of Lake Braddock, "and I anticipate playing them in the district final. They’re a very good team: great hitters, setters, servers. They’re just solid all around. Tonight, we were better."
— Jon Roetman