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Volleyball: Stone Bridge, Langley reach Liberty final

The formula was simple enough. Stone Bridge senior libero Lindsay Gill would dig Fairfax's shots from the back line, junior Amanda Miller would set the ball perfectly to either side and one the Bulldogs' very capable hitters would put the point away.

That combination was stuck on repeat in the second set of Tuesday's AAA Liberty District semifinal match at Stone Bridge, as the top-seeded Bulldogs took 19 of the final 21 points to take a 2-0 lead. But despite the team's dominance through the first two sets, there was little of the emotional chanting, singing and gesticulating that so often accompanies good plays in high school volleyball.

Instead, as the No. 5 Bulldogs salted away their 25-14, 25-5, 25-23 win, there were high fives, brief smiles and that was the end of that. After reaching the Northern Region semifinals a year ago, nothing short of a championship and a spot in the state tournament will satisfy this year's Bulldogs. So Tuesday's win, which landed them in Thursday's district final against Langley on their home court, was merely another step along the way toward achieving that goal.

"They're not that rah-rah kind of team," 10th-year Coach Jill Raschiatore said. "They're not going to get pumped up every night for no reason just to get pumped up. They're more calm, cool and collected and they've got a job to do.

"They've had it in the back of their minds all year. They don't want to look past anyone before the region, but they have bigger goals and aspirations and we're just working towards them."

Stone Bridge (20-2) blitzed their hosts out of the gates, closing out the first set on a 12-3 run that included four service aces. As she has been all season Miller was the catalyst, registering two aces and tallying 10 of her 39 assists in the opening game. One of four Bulldogs named to the all-district first team, she added nine points and two blocks while setting three of her teammates to double-digit kills.

"You can't rattle her," Raschiatore said of Miller. "She's tough, she's smart on the court and she's a very deceiving setter. She does a really good job of isolating our hitters and getting them one-on-one as opposed to having two or three blockers going against them."

Junior Christine Beckham had 12 kills, eight points and five digs, and senior Alexis Chism added 13 kills, 6 points and 2 blocks. But it was the lone freshman on the Bulldogs' roster - first team selection Ryan Ackermann, whose thunderous kills claimed three of the final five points in the third set to close out the Rebels.

"Ryan and Alex [Heyn] are starting to realize where to put the ball," Miller said of the team's two youngest players. "They're becoming a lot more consistent, which is big, because we know we're going to need them to step up if we want to keep extending our season."

By virtue of winning the regular season district title, the Bulldogs are assured no worse than a No. 2 seed and a first-round home game in the Northern Region tournament, which begins Monday. Their only loss to a Northern Region team during the regular season was a 3-1 defeat at No. 3 Chantilly on Sept. 16, a team they're eager to meet again.

"I think they wouldn't mind seeing Chantilly at any point in the region just because we have improved and we'd like to see how much we've improved compared to them," Raschiatore said. "They've got the confidence, they feel like they're playing well and I feel like they'd like the challenge of playing Chantilly or anyone else in the region they've seen."

In the second semifinal, second-seeded Langley cruised to a 2-0 lead over No. 3 Madison only to lose the third set and be forced to battle through a back-and-forth fourth set. But after trailing 22-20 in the final game, the Saxons claimed five of the final six points to take the match and advance to the tournament final, 25-12, 25-15, 25-23.

"We switched defenses in the third set in an effort to prepare for future matches," Langley Coach Susan Shifflett said. "They just couldn't handle it, so we kind of got out of our rhythm. Then we got out of our rhythm offensively and we just lost the momentum. But they hung tough and it says a lot for them that they could stay with it and come through in the end."

Junior outside hitter Kathryn Caine led the offense with 16 kills, many coming off the hands of sophomore setter Nikki Hero, who finished with 27 assists. The Saxons' first-year setter missed the regular season meeting against Stone Bridge -- won 3-0 by the Bulldogs -- and should provide a different dimension to the Langley attack on Thursday night.

"She's really developing into a fine setter," Shifflet said. "She had to get used to the hitters and the hitters had to get used to her, so it took some growing pains. She had bronchitis the first time, so this should be a little different game."

Senior outside hitter Lainey Le Blanc had six kills and a block and senior outside hitter Carlie Owen added four blocks and two kills as the Saxons (13-9) won their sixth consecutive match and the 10th out of their last 11.

The driving force behind Langley's defense and their most vocal leader on the court is senior libero Elysse Richardson -- the Liberty District player of the year. From her streak of eight consecutive service points won to start the match, to her direction of the attack, Richardson made her presence felt all night.

"The mark of a great player is someone who can make everyone around them better," Shifflet said. "That's what she does, she makes everybody else on the team a better player and that's just great to have. If Stone Bridge had her, I think they'd be unbeatable."

Despite losing in straight sets, the Saxons played Stone Bridge tight earlier in the season, which gives the team confidence heading into the rematch.

"We've got to get faster on our block, because they have really fast arm swings," Shifflett said. "We've got to disrupt what they're doing, disrupt their serve-receive so they can't get to their hitters. And then hopefully we can put some down on our side. But we've got good defense, and I won't mess with that again."

Scores from around Virginia

For teams and players to watch in each of these tournaments, read my district tournament previews here.

AAA Northern Region

Concorde District

Quarterfinals - 11/2
No. 4 Oakton def. No. 5 Centreville 18-25, 26-24, 25-22, 25-12
No. 3 Herndon def. No. 6 Westfield 16-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-15

Semifinals - 11/3 (at Centreville)
No. 1 Chantilly def. No. 4 Oakton 26-24, 25-15, 25-18
No. 2 Robinson def. No. 3 Herndon 21-25, 25-21, 25-18, 19-25, 15-11

Final - 11/5, 6:30 p.m. (at Centreville)
No. 2 Robinson vs. No. 1 Chantilly

Liberty District

Quarterfinals - 11/2
No. 1 Stone Bridge def. No. 8 South Lakes 25-19, 25-19, 25-6
No. 4 Fairfax def. No. 5 Jefferson 25-12, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24
No. 3 Madison def. No. 6 McLean 25-23, 25-18, 15-17
No. 2 Langley def. No. 7 Marshall 25-20, 25-9, 25-1

Semifinals - 11/3 (at Stone Bridge)
No. 1 Stone Bridge def. No. 4 Langley 25-14, 25-5, 25-23
No. 2 Langley def. No. 3 Madison 25-12, 25-15, 19-25, 25-23

Final - 11/5, 7 p.m. (at Stone Bridge)
No. 2 Langley vs. No. 1 Stone Bridge

National District

Quarterfinals - 11/2
No. 1 Yorktown def. No. 8 Mount Vernon 25-12, 25-13, 25-12
No. 5 Washington-Lee def. No. 4 Wakefield 25-20, 25-22, 25-18
No. 6 Edison def. No. 3 Stuart 25-15, 19-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-12
No. 2 Hayfield def. No. 7 Falls Church 25-19, 25-21, 25-20

Semifinals - 11/4 (at higher seed)
No. 5 Washington-Lee at No. 1 Yorktown (7 p.m.)
No. 6 Edison at No. 2 Hayfield (7 p.m.)

Final - 11/5 (at higher seed)

Patriot District

Quarterfinals - 11/2
No. 1 South County def. No. 8 West Potomac 25-15, 25-12, 25-7
No. 5 Lake Braddock def. No. 4 Annandale 25-20, 26-24, 25-23
No. 3 West Springfield def. No. 6 T.C. Williams 25-21, 25-20, 25-19
No. 2 W.T. Woodson def. No. 7 Lee 25-12, 25-15, 25-17

Semifinals - 11/3 (at South County)
No. 1 South County def. No. 5 Lake Braddock 25-12, 25-12, 22-25, 25-20
No. 2 W.T. Woodson def. No. 3 West Springfield 25-20, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22

Final - 11/5, 7 p.m. (at South County)
No. 2 W.T. Woodson vs. No. 1 South County

AAA Northwest Region

Cardinal District

Playoff for No. 1 seed
Forest Park def. Osbourn Park 27-25, 25-17, 25-23

Semifinals - 11/3 (at Freedom-Woodbridge)
No. 1 Forest Park def. No. 4 Woodbridge 25-18, 25-17, 25-14
No. 2 Osbourn Park def. No. 3 Potomac 3-1

Final - 11/5, 6 p.m. (at Freedom-Woodbridge)
No. 2 Osbourn Park vs. No. 1 Forest Park

Cedar Run District

Semifinals - 11/3, 7:30 p.m. (at higher seeds)
No. 1 Loudoun Valley def. No. 4 Osbourn 25-13, 25-14, 25-19
No. 2 Heritage def. No. 3 Battlefield 25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-19

Final - 11/5, 7 p.m. (at Loudoun Valley)
No. 2 Heritage at No. 1 Loudoun Valley

Region II

AA Dulles

First Round - 11/3, 7 p.m. (at higher seeds)
No. 4 Freedom def. No. 5 Potomac Falls 25-16, 25-10, 20-25, 25-20
No. 3 Briar Woods def. No. 6 Dominion 3-0
No. 2 Broad Run def. No. 7 Park View 25-15, 25-11, 25-10
Bye: No. 1 Loudoun County (18-2)

Semifinals - 11/5 (at Loudoun County)
1 - No. 4 Freedom vs. No. 1 Loudoun County (6 p.m.)
2 - No. 3 Briar Woods vs. No. 2 Broad Run (8 p.m.)

Final - 11/7, 7 p.m. (at Loudoun County)
Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner

AA Evergreen

Semifinals - 11/4 (at Kettle Run)
1 - No. 4 Liberty vs. No. 1 Kettle Run winner (6 p.m.)
2 - No. 3 Brentsville vs. No. 2 Fauquier (7:30 p.m.)

Final - 11/5, 7 p.m. (at Kettle Run)
Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner

AA Region I

AA Battlefield

Semifinals - 11/3 (at King George)
No. 1 Chancellor def. No. 4 Spotsylvania 25-9, 25-13, 25-8
No. 2 Courtland def. No. 3 Culpeper 25-21, 25-23, 25-18

Final - 11/4 (at King George)
No. 2 Courtland vs. No. 1 Chancellor

By Matt Brooks  |  November 4, 2009; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  AA Dulles , AAA Cedar Run District , AAA Concorde District , AAA Liberty District , AAA National District , AAA Patriot District , Battlefield District , Langley High School , Region I , Region II , Stone Bridge High School , Volleyball  
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