Tartans WCAC Champions – VISAA States Begin This Week
Holy Cross topped the Bishop O’Connell Knights to win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championship. They won the serve/receive battle, neutralizing the offensive fire power of the Knights. They also have the best player in the DMV in Emerson…
Holy Cross topped the Bishop O’Connell Knights to win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championship. They won the serve/receive battle, neutralizing the offensive fire power of the Knights. They also have the best player in the DMV in Emerson Sellman. Fittingly, she crushed the game winning spike to win the fourth and final set 25-20, giving the Tartans their first WCAC championship after a five year absence. A very exuberant pile on of players and fans crashed onto the court right after the final kill.
O’Connell won the opening set 25-21. A Jocelyn Pye kill broke a 21-21 tie and middle Teodora Stamenkovic finished the game with her quick set missile to the floor for a final 25-21 win.
The Tartans made some adjustments after that. The 6’4″ Emerson Sellman moved to the right side to tame the left side rockets delivered by Pye. And Sarah Jeremias also got in a zone finding holes in the Knights blocks and defense to become an offensive force. The Knights also had trouble figuring out setter Jaylyn Simon who successfully accumulated five straight setter dumps to the floor over the course of three sets, while middlecontributed to the offense.
A huge factor was the solid passing of frosh libero Kate Bickel that helped the Tartans win the serve receive battle. Sellman and Jeremias also were on target with their passing. The Tartans finished with 12 aces while the Knights could only muster four. That Knight inability to pass led the Tartans to easy 25-16 and 25-10 wins in the second and third sets.
The Knights battled back in the fourth set. They moved Madison Bowser to the outside and she contributed five of her 13 kills from the pins. Teodora Stamenkovic blocked Sellman twice to finish with four blocks for the match. Unfortunately, she could not block the last kill that gave the Tartans the 25-20 fourth set win.
The loss ended the Knights streak of two consecutive WCAC championships. Paul VI had a streak of four straight championships from 1999 to 2002. Good Counsel then had a dominating era from 2006 to 2011. Holy Cross took over after that winning from 2012 to 2017. They have actually been in every championship from 2011 to present but this was the first they have won since 2017 (there was no championship in 2020).
VISAA State Championships
The DC State championships begin this week as do the private Virginia Independent School Athletic Association (VISAA) high school state championship. They are broken out into four divisions. A group of coaches rank the top ten schools in each Division. Only the top eight qualify for the State championships. Below are the four favorites for the VISAA in Division I.
Flint Hill – They have won 11 straight state championships, including every state championship since 2017 (except 2020 when none was held). Bishop O’Connell broke their streak in 2016 when they upset Flint Hill that year. The Huskies roster is filled with seniors who have won previous championships, including middle Ryla Jones, outside Mickhaila Murray, setter Natalie Nguyen and utility players Emily Kearney and Sarah Manson, who fill vital bench roles for a roster that consists of only 11 players.
Flint Hill recently won the Independent Schools League (ISL) championship, continuing their streak of not losing a set against ISL teams since 2011. They hope to continue that streak once the seniors leave with frosh Alli Z Robinson at a pin or blocking middle and middle Hunter Ross. Sophomore Libero Evie Huang will continue to patrol the back row with help from junior Kadi Pynchon. Junior Isabelle Bardin will take over the setting duties. At 6’2″ she brings a strong offensive presence to the right side, so finding another setter would be ideal. Junior Audrey Sealock returns for one more season controlling a pin.
The Huskies first match is against the number eight seed Saint Gertrude.
Bishop O’Connell – They come into the tournament as the second seed. In their most recent match on Sunday they lost the WCAC championship to Holy Cross. The last time they lost a WCAC championship match to Holy Cross was in 2016, when they won the State championship.
They have some offensive performers in outsides Jocelyn Pye and Ellyson Miller. Middle Madison Bowser can also play right side as does middle Alice Holoubek. The one main stay at middle is 6’2″ sophomore Teodora Stamenkovic, who is second on the team in blocks to Madison Bowser. This is a team with some impressive hitters. What is more impressive is the setting acumen of Erin Debiec. She is probably the top setter in the area and at 6’1″ she can also play a dominate right side.
The key is to keep the Knights out of system. The Knights have a trio of back row players who are responsible for controlling the back row, starting with libero Hannah Kotb and also including Maia Cerezo and Cara Nearpass. Left side Jocelyn Pye also takes on back row responsibilities. Hannah and Maia are also second and third on the team in aces, so they come at you with a pretty strong serve.
The Knights first match is against Potomac, a team they have beaten already this season.
St. Catherines – The Saints recent win over Collegiate made them the third seed. Their offense tends to revolve around middle Taylor Meredith, who leads the team in both kills and blocks. As with the Knights, the key will be to keep the Saints out of system where they are unable to set the middle. The key to that being unsuccessful is libero Campbell Wood presenting passes that can be used to set the middle.
Anne Fielding Croft controls the offense with her setting. She sets a 5/1. Her primary outsides are Madison Loving and Rachel Eid. Sophomore Bailey Lovey can also fill an outside role or come in to strengthen the back row play.
The Saints open their season against St. Anne’s-Bellfield. Both times these two teams played during the season St. Catherines swept them.
Collegiate – Collegiate has played St. Catherines four times this season. The last match, which was a sweep for St. Catherines, evened their series at 2 games apiece. Both will have to beat the top two seeds to play a fifth time.
The Cougars are led by their outside Gracie Gordon. She leads the team in kills and plays a strong back row. Supporting her on offense is middle Kyla Coffey. Setter Abby Mayr is responsible for orchestrating the offense.
The Cougars start their season against Norfolk Academy. Last year Norfolk Academy beat Bishop O’Connell in the semi-final and were the first to take a set from Flint Hill. They eventually lost the championship match to Flint Hill in four.
Woodson Win a Wild One in VISL Regional Semi-Final
It would have been a shame if Woodson had not qualified for States because of a lineup error. That is almost what happened in Woodson’s eventual five set victory against West Potomac, a team they had beaten twice during the regular season, the first time by a sweep and the next in four sets.
The first set followed the normal course with the Cavaliers winning 25-16, led by the offense of Maura Fay and Emma Gardner. West Potomac took advantage of a hot serving streak by Maeve Bradley which included four aces and six points to turn a three point deficit into a 18-15 lead. Alina Uusimaki also served a couple aces in the set. Olivia Hatcher ended the game with a kill to give the Wolverines a 25-20 win.
Set three started off badly for Woodson. They began the game with an incorrect lineup, starting off with two setters in the front row at the same time, one of their outsides opposite their setter and the other outside opposite the middle. In all this confusion they sacrificed a point with an incorrect server and played a tentative defensive game. Alina Uusimaki sealed the set with her bullet serves that shanked off the Cavaliers arms as if they were footballs. The Wolverines won set three 25-16.
With their backs against the wall and a loss eliminating them from the state championships Woodson bounced back in game four. They got behind early but Sofie Ferrell went on a six point service run to put them up 12-6. Livia Lee followed with a five point service run and Catherine Quiqley ended the game with a short serve ace. The Cavaliers would tie it up with a 25-14 win.
It went to set five where the game went back and forth with no team getting ahead by more than two points. Maeve Bradley banged a kill to pull West Potomac to within one at 10-11. The next rally resulted in another attempted kill by Maeve Bradley. The hit sailed out but West Potomac insisted there was a touch. The officials on the court thought otherwise and Woodson pulled ahead 12-10. Three consecutive errors by Woodson when trying to put the ball over the net gave Woodson a 15-10 victory and an eventual qualification for the states. They must play West Springfield first to determine who deserves the number one seed out of their bracket.
Chesapeake Chirps: West Springfield knocked out defending state champion Alexandria City with their four set win. West Springfield will have to play Woodson in the Regional final. Wodson beat the Spartans twice during the regular season…,Grafton will be a force in Class 3. They won in four against New Kent….Deep Run defeated Cosby in five to win their Regional championship….Jamestown swept Smithfield to win Region 4A.