Like a volleyball being inflated with air, the high school season is beginning to take shape.
Teams are already three or four matches deep into their campaigns, which could have as many as 18 scheduled contests.
As they bump, set, and spike their way into the postseason, starting with district tournaments Oct. 21, the Prince William Times takes a few quick hits at the local volleyball scene. Win-loss records are as of Sept. 6.
Coach: Keith Mesa (6th season)
Highlights: Mesa’s been in charge of Colgan volleyball since the school opened, and the Sharks are primed for their best season yet.
They spent Labor Day weekend coming in second in the 18-team Virginia Volleyball Showcase in Henrico.
“Expectations are the same,” Mesa said. “To qualify for the regional playoffs and push to try and get a state tournament berth.”
To get there, Colgan will rely on a pair of standout hitters to provide offensive firepower. Senior outside hitter Alana Connor is “the steadiest player on the team,” while junior middle hitter Brielle Kemavor, a Division I prospect, paces the Sharks in both kills and blocks.
Coach: Floyd Pier (1st season)
Highlights: The Vikings have only lost once in the early going, but that five-set setback to stalwart Forest Park is the season highlight so far for Pier.
The veteran coach takes over the reins of the Woodbridge program with multiple standout performers.
Ashlee Franklin is a versatile, smart, all-around player who “knows when to swing hard or place the ball,” Pier said.
Maddie Lowther is a vocal, highly experienced on-court leader who’s an adept server and setter. Kylie Ta’amai patrols the front row, showing strength when hitting from the outside or the middle.
“Expectations for the season is to continue to grow as a team and get better each match,” Pier said.
Manassas Park Cougars
Coach: Kate Gilbride (7th season)
Highlights: Gilbride is raising expectations in the Manassas Park program.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve had girls go on to play in college and made it to states, but this is a special group we have this year,” the coach said.
She’s taking the long view, she said, in building for the program’s future, although she has plenty to work with now.
Senior right-side setter MacKayla Gustin is a three-year starter and “the glue that holds our team together.” Sophomore Maddie Alexander is a playmaking right-side setter and “a natural leader.”
Already averaging 10 kills per match as a freshman, outside hitter Allison Cibrian-Martinez is a rising star for the Cougars. She ran off a 14-point serving run in their victory over Osbourn.
“Allison’s speed is her greatest asset,” Gilbride said. “She is fun to watch!”
Forest Park Bruins
Coach: Anna Huerta (12th season)
Highlights: It’s a promising season for the Bruins, due in large part to the seven seniors Huerta has on her roster.
“All of our seniors are strong, experienced players who show continuous leadership and talent,” the coach said.
Senior middle blocker Deja Clarke and senior outside hitter Isabel Bravo share the team lead in kills, while Clarke and Jasmine Okeoma lead Forest Park in blocks. Clarke and Mia Austin-Click, another senior, pace the Bruins in the service aces stat.
Huerta believes her team will contend for the Cardinal District title and make a good showing in regionals.
“There are so many players that are crucial to our success,” she said. “[They] are all important and play a big role in achieving our team goals.”
Coach: Abby Mills (4th season)
Highlights: Don’t let that record fool you. The Bobcats are an up-and-coming team.
“Our record does not reflect the progress we’ve been making this season,” Mills said. “We have a very young team and have been growing each game!”
The Bobcats’ first victory of the year, a 3-1 triumph on the road at Champe, is the season’s highlight so far. “We were able to come out on top with great serve-receive and spreading out our attack at the net,” Mils said.
Battlefield is led by senior captain outside hitter Hillarie Adams, a take-charge leader who “is so critical for the success of our team.” Sophomore libero Jaelle Hinkle is a converted hitter who’s adjusting well to the speed of the varsity game, Mills said.
The coach said she expects the Bobcats to keep making strides in their on-court cohesiveness and play together to overcome challenges.
Coach: Doug Towle (1st season)
Highlights: Towle is a veteran coach assuming the helm of Gainesville’s brand-new program, and he already sees signs he likes.
“Having enough players to fill out varsity, JV, and ninth-grade teams has been uplifting,” said Towle, whose roster has no seniors. “The fact that we’ve competed with each team we’ve faced is testimony to the girls’ hard work.”
The ace of the Cards is captain Toni Middlebrooks, a front-row setter flanked by fellow junior Sophia Del Vacchio. Both are threats to pass or to hit away.
“True leaders both,” Towle said, “through leading by example and motivating their teammates.”
Freshman Alexis Diettrick leads Gainesville in kills and blocks, helped by athletic outside hitters Charizma Lofton and Jaelyn Anderson. The defense is led by rotating libbers Kayla Neal and Aubrey Beal, who tie for the team lead in digs with 25 apiece.
“For a team that wasn’t able to really have any off-season conditioning and had to use an away facility [Patriot High School] for early practices, they have played inspired volleyball,” the coach said.
Coach: Andrea Green (3rd season)
Highlights: After a one-year hiatus to get married, Green returns to coach a senior-laden Hylton program.
“We have a very talented and competitive team this season,” said Green, who boasts six seniors on the team. “I’m looking forward to seeing everything they go on to accomplish!”
The Bulldogs are led by seniors Amily Sylla and Daniella Flowers, both four-year varsity players. Sylla is a starting outside hitter while Flowers holds down the starting setter position.
Gar-Field Red Wolves
Coach: Saprina Shomari (3rd season)
Highlights: It’s a building phase for the Red Wolves, who return just four players with any varsity experience.
“They went from the freshman team to the varsity team with no volleyball in between,” Shomari said. “But the girls play hard and work hard. That’s all I can really ask of them.”
Gar-Field boasts talent in senior setter Ashaki Shomari, “a big presence on the court” who leads the team in kills, assists, and service aces. Fellow senior Jazzlyn Guzman, a libero, is reliable digging up spikes from the back, and senior outside hitter Alicia Fleming is coming into her own, Shomari said.
Coach: Amy Beard (12th season)
Highlights: Growth is the theme of the season for the Tigers.
For the first time in several seasons, Brentsville is fielding three volleyball squads in its program.
“We have a lot of talent but the confidence isn’t always there like it should be,” Beard said. “My expectations are that we improve every day.”
Senior captain Sami Dawson is a team leader and another example of growth in the Brentsville program. “As an eighth grader, she was just learning the game and couldn’t serve over the net or set,” Beard said. “Now she’s our leading server and starting setter. We use her as an example for our younger players, on and off the court.”
Coach: Katie Moore (4th season)
Highlights: The Pioneers traveled to Henrico, went 3-2 in the Virginia Volleyball Showcase over Labor Day weekend, and came back “with a better understanding of how to take this team to the next level,” Moore said.
“We played a few state-caliber teams, and had success during those matches,” she added.
Moore believes Patriot is putting a special team on the court this season, led by junior outside hitter and last season’s team MVP Dryden Rancourt, the Pioneers’ leader in kills with 79. Outside hitter Natalia Mora has slammed down 48 kills.
Freshman setter Anisa Flowers leads with 88 assists, while sophomore setter Lauren Katz paces Patriot with 21 service aces. Sophomore libber Lanie Goff has bumped up 82 digs, and senior middle blocker Valesca Ramirez leads with 11 blocks, adding 24 kills.
“There is no limit to what this team is capable of doing, as long as they continue to put in the work,” Moore said.