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Powered by new talent, four-time Cardinal District champs seek return to states

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The Colgan Sharks are just a few points shy of a perfect volleyball season so far.

At 13-1 and 7-0 in the Cardinal District, the Sharks’ only blemish is a close loss to Mountain View in the finals of the Virginia Volleyball Showcase in Richmond Sept. 4.

Colgan has won its six district matches by a combined score of 21-2.

“They play well together and play for each other,” said Keith Mesa, the only head coach in the program’s six-year history. “We’ve developed a good culture over the last few years.”

Mesa had to replace five starters from last year’s team that made the Class 6 Region B semifinals. Only two starters and two rotational players return.

“I feel like we’re balanced, our ball control’s been improving, we have a solid setter in [junior] Alexis Scipione and we’re a fairly big team,” Mesa said.

Scipione has tossed up 414 assists out of a 5-1 formation. She sets up an array of Colgan hitters, nine of whom measure at least 5-foot-9.

Middle hitter Brielle Kemavor, a 6-foot-4 star who’s attracting interest from some of the country's top college programs, paces Colgan with 114 kills and a .403 hitting percentage.

“She’s come into her own as a junior, gaining more confidence,” Mesa said.

Senior outside hitter Alana Connor has slammed down 95 kills, while sophomore Aubrey Hatch has 59 and senior Meghan Haldeman has 33. Senior Joey Him is hitting at a .324 clip, piling up 30 kills.

Sophomore Paula Sigurani Rivera has emerged as the starting libero.

“She’s done a good job for a sophomore stepping in,” Mesa said. “She’s helped a lot with ball control.”

Mesa praised his players for their unselfishness.

“They don’t worry about themselves getting the credit,” he said. “When your team has that mindset, you can do good things as a team.”

To get ready for the postseason, Mesa placed Colgan in two major tournaments.

The Sharks went 4-1 over Labor Day weekend, earning wins over Atlee and Rustburg, in the Virginia Volleyball Showcase.

They’ll look for similar results Oct. 9 when they head to Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., for their first appearance in the annual Tiger Paws Invitational.

Colgan will play five best-of-three matches in a single day.

“We’re going to see a bunch of different teams with different styles of play,” said Mesa, who switches up starting lineups often. “That always helps self-evaluations.”

The Sharks will hunt their fourth Cardinal District championship when the tourney starts Oct. 26. They also seek their second-ever state tournament berth and first since 2018.

Mesa reflected on the short but successful history of Colgan volleyball.

“That first group did a great job of setting what we want, the workmanlike nature we go about our business with,” the coach said. “We’ve been blessed to have really good kids who want to get better.”

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