The Washington-Lee volleyball program has a new head coach who is looking to take the Generals to unfamiliar heights. But ask the team’s best player about her expectations for the 2010 season and the first part of her answer returns to a familiar rivalry.
"Beat Yorktown," senior captain Becca Jones said, "and win districts."
W-L accomplished the former in 2009, defeating Yorktown on its home floor in the regular season finale. The victory snapped Yorktown’s National District win streak, which stretched back to 2007, and was a rare triumph over the rival Patriots. Jones and the Generals will host Yorktown at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 27.
Accomplishing the latter of Jones’ expectations, however, appears an even more difficult task.
Washington-Lee has not posted a winning record or finished better than fourth in the district during the last six seasons. In charge of changing the Generals’ losing ways is first-year head coach John Delaney, who said he envisions the Generals improving as the season progresses.
"I’d like to see us finish strong," he said. "… I think we’re actually the kind of team that’s going to step up when we play bigger competition."
Washington-Lee is off to a 3-2 start, including a 1-1 mark in district play. The Generals defeated Mount Vernon, 3-1, in their district opener on Sept. 13 and lost to Stuart, 3-0, on Sept. 20. W-L will travel to face South Lakes on Sept. 23 before resuming district play against Yorktown.
Last year, Yorktown rolled through district play until senior all-region outside hitter Elyse Bush suffered a season-ending knee injury against Washington-Lee. Without their leader, the Patriots crumbled against the Generals, who took the match in five games. One week later, Yorktown won a rematch with W-L in the district tournament semifinals.
While Bush is gone and Delaney wasn’t involved with the rivalry last season, he’s hopeful both teams will be at full strength when they meet this season.
"I’d love to beat them squared up," he said, with "no reason for excuses."
The Generals’ top weapon against Yorktown or any other foe is the right arm of the 5-foot-10 Jones. The outside hitter was a first-team all-district selection as a junior and, according to the Delaney, has the talent to play at the Division I level. Through Sept. 15, Jones was second on the team with 45 kills. Delaney also praised Jones’ passing ability, saying she could also play in the back row at the next level.
"You can’t give her advice when she’s on the court because she’s so focused," Delaney said. "It’s really, really tough to look at her on the court and find things that she can do better. … Her passing is just spot on. She’s very focused on what the other teams are doing and where the ball is at all times."
One thing Delaney said he would like Jones to improve is being more aggressive.
"I think she [has] these moments of trying to be too careful and I think she tries to roll some hits where she really should just swing away and put it away," he said. "She’s the kind of player that, really, if she wanted to, could take advantage of any team."
W-L also returns a pair of second-team all-district selections in senior middle blocker Aliya Winker (5-11) and junior setter Erin Fox (5-6). Winker led the Generals with 47 kills and 16 blocks through Sept. 15 and Fox averaged 9.1 assists per game.
Senior libero Megan Adkins-Branch (5-3) led the Generals with 45 digs.
W-L has five players listed at 5-10 or taller: junior Jillian Luoma-Overstreet (6-0), Winker, junior Enji Batbaatar (5-11), sophomore Lillian Prins (5-11) and Jones.
For the Generals, beating Yorktown would fulfill the first part of Jones’ expectations and push W-L one step closer to a strong district finish. Last year’s victory over the Patriots had Jones speaking with confidence.
"It shouldn’t be too hard" to beat the Patriots, she said.