It was an average Wednesday night at Mount Vernon’s Skinner Field House when the Majors volleyball team dropped the first two games of their National District opener against Washington-Lee on Sept. 15. There was little pressure on either team entering the third game of a match that was unlikely to play a major role in the final standings. W-L head coach John Delaney even sat his best player, Becca Jones, to give his reserves some playing time.
But as Mount Vernon started piling up points in game three, it appeared the on-court action meant a little more to the Majors. Leading 20-19, Mount Vernon players and coaches were determined to finish the task at hand. A kill by freshman Sarah Moore put the Majors up by two. Moments later, a W-L attack appeared destined to land out of bounds. Unsure of whether a player in the back row would attempt to dig the ball, pumped-up Mount Vernon head coach Julia Lashley made the player’s decision a little easier by screaming, "Out!" The attack error gave the Majors a point and a kill by Alexis Gable gave Mount Vernon a 23-19 advantage. After each team scored another point, Gable ended the game with an ace.
It was just one game, and the Generals quickly ended the match with a victory in game four, but winning that one game signified progress for the Mount Vernon volleyball program. In 2008, the Majors won just one match. In 2009, Mount Vernon did not win a match and rarely captured even a game. This season, the Majors are off to a 0-5 start, but the team won a game in three of the matches.
Lashley, in her third season as Mount Vernon head coach, acknowledges the Majors are rebuilding. Her expectations focus on getting the Majors to believe in themselves more than wins and losses. But so far, Lashley is pleased with what she’s seen in 2010 — a process that started in the offseason. Last year, Gable was the only Major who played club volleyball. Now, Mount Vernon has four club players and many of the Majors attended camps.
"We did a lot of rebuilding this past year," Lashley said. "We’re much further along. We’re taking teams a lot further and we’re competing a lot harder than we have in the past two years. They’re dedicated [and] they’re working harder. … In the offseason, my girls are conditioning more. They’re playing volleyball, they’re going to camps [and] they’re doing a lot more things to better their skills outside of the school season."
Along with Washington-Lee, Mount Vernon has also taken a game from Lee and T.C. Williams.
Lashley said another change is the Majors have height this season. Sophomore outside hitter Megan McKinney is listed at 5 feet 11 and sophomore middle blocker Isabelle Guzman is 5-10. Junior middle blocker Sammie Oputa and the freshman outside hitter Moore are 5-9.
The senior setter Gable has been one of the team’s top players each of the last two seasons. Lashley said she has continued to improve.
"Her serve is just dynamite," the coach said, "and her accuracy is getting much better than last year."
Seniors Veronica Bryant, Rashidat Omotosho and Loren Thompson, juniors Dominique Williams, Miranda Carroll and Olivia Gibbs and sophomore Katie Junraken complete the varsity roster.
Mount Vernon will host Lake Braddock at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 23.
"My expectation for them is to get out of their head [with thoughts] like, ‘We’ve lost,’" Lashley said. "I don’t like that. You lose two games in a match, [you need to bounce back]. I want them to have that self confidence to get over their record, get over what people say about them and just believe in themselves."