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Colgan volleyball eliminates Freedom-South Riding in semis, meets Herndon for title

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Colgan High School Volleyball Brielle Kemavor

After sweeping Freedom-South Riding Tuesday night, imposing junior middle hitter Brielle Kemavor and the Colgan Sharks are one win from the Class 6 state title. Colgan is packing its bags for Richmond where Herndon is the foe in Friday’s state championship match at 8 p.m.

With every point the Colgan volleyball team (25-2) scored Tuesday night, a roar rose up inside the Shark Tank.

When the Sharks’ dominant front line registered yet another kill to seal a 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 over Freedom-South Riding in the Class 6 state semifinal on Tuesday, Nov. 16, the cheer was long and loud. A few minutes later, many of those students stormed the court, jumping and celebrating with their victorious team.

Colgan next plays Herndon on Friday night in Richmond for the Class 6 state championship.

“I’m so excited right now,” shouted a joyful senior opposite hitter Meghan Haldeman, who had three kills and a block in the contest. “We’re going to our first state championship! I’m just so happy right now.”

Never before had Colgan made it past the state semifinals. The school, which opened in 2016, made it once in 2018, losing to eventual champ Chantilly 3-1. 

“We lost five starters last year,” said Keith Mesa, the only head coach in the program’s brief but successful six-year history. “To come back and make the state championship is a testament to how hard they’ve worked this year.”

Early deficit for Colgan

The match began poorly for Colgan. The Eagles ran out to a 16-7 lead, forcing Mesa to call a timeout.

“We just stayed positive and pushed through it,” Haldeman said. “From there we just played with a lot of excitement.”

The coach saw the early deficit as a pivotal moment.

“We came out timid and a little nervous, so we told them, it’s time to decide who you are, right now,” Mesa said. “And they did. They settled in and clawed back into it.”

The Sharks answered their coach’s question with quick runs of four and five points to make it 21-20. Makayla Bowman and Brielle Kemavor combined to block a Freedom slam, sending it back to tie things at 22-22.

Bowman put down the clinching kill to take the first set. She went on to tally nine kills.

“Volleyball’s not only physical but a mental game, and we’re good in the mental aspect,” senior hitter Joey Him said. “We go out and play for each other. That’s what differentiates us from other teams. We’ll fight to the last point.”

Colgan cruised through the second set, jumping out to a 10-5 lead and keeping it. Six-foot-four junior middle hitter Kemavor, who’s getting major college looks, leaped high to send down an emphatic kill for a 15-8 lead and a thunderous roar from the home crowd.

“To see what they’ve created with our student body, it’s just fantastic,” Mesa said. “Some of them maybe never attended a volleyball match before. It’s great for our school. We couldn’t be more thrilled with this group.”

The two teams nipped and tucked throughout the third set, which was tied six times between 14-14 and 19-19. But Bowman aced a serve to put Colgan in front for good, and Kemavor delivered another crushing slam to fire up the crowd, which could smell victory.

Kemavor finished with 12 kills and seven blocks, both team highs.

The Sharks will hunt for one more win when they travel to the Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University for the biggest prize.

“It’s going to be a tremendous challenge,” Mesa said, “but we’re looking forward to the challenge in front of us.”

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