Leesburg, Va. (August 12, 2014) – Anyone who knows anything about volleyball in Northern Virginia will tell you the same thing: Loudoun County High School is the team to beat.
That has been the case since 2006, when then Head Coach Jenica Brown was named to the Washington Post All-Met team. She was honored for taking over a volleyball program that won only a single game in the 2001 season and, by 2006, molded,“a balanced team with no superstars into a cohesive unit that made the Virginia AA championship match.” She went on to win six state championships over the next seven years, along with her brother Jarod, her assistant coach since 2006.
Her father, John Brown, had been in the Loudoun County gym since 2003, coaching his own middle school volleyball clinics, and handing out middle school developmental volleyball program flyers to fans.
Among those flyer recipients was a family who had just moved from a small town near Kansas City to the ever-growing population in Leesburg, Va., in 2003. With their former Southwest Baptist University basketball and volleyball athlete mother, Sherrilyn, the Hanna sisters, Marguerite and Juliane, were looking for information on local basketball teams. But within two weeks, both girls were playing for Loudoun Youth Volleyball, a program developed by David McCandless in partnership with the Northern Virginia Volleyball Association. Sherrilyn decided she would also join the girls as a coach.
Fast-forward to 2007 when senior Marguerite, who was later named to the Washington Post All-Met Second Team, helped lead her unbeaten Loudoun County Lady Raiders to the AA Virginia state title under Coach Brown. Her younger sister, Juliane, was a sophomore on that same team. Two years later, Juliane would be named to the 2009 All-Met First Team and was the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year, along with being awarded numerous District, Region and State accolades for leading her team to their third state title in three years. Juliane would go on to play for NCAA Division 1 University of New Mexico, while Marguerite was a key player at the Azusa Pacific NAIA team in California. In the background, Sherrilyn was still coaching, by then with the Virginia Elite Volleyball Club in Great Falls, VA.
When Jenica Brown announced her resignation in January of this year, she stated in a Washington Post article, “I’m praying the best person wants to step up” to take over the program. After raising two Raider volleyball superstars, and coaching middle school club volleyball from 2003, the freshman team at Loudoun County in 2005 and 2010, and the junior varsity team in 2012 and 2013, Sherrilyn Hanna was just that person.
“It’s a mixed bag of emotions,” stated Hanna when asked what it feels like to be taking over the most enviable—and most difficult—volleyball coaching job in Northern Virginia, if not in the Commonwealth. “I’ve got some big shoes to fill, it’s pretty overwhelming; but I’m ready to get this season started.”
Hanna plans to keep in close contact with the Browns as she embarks on her first season as head volleyball coach at Loudoun County. “Jenica has shown me how to set high standards for the older varsity players both on and off the court.” Brown demonstrated a high level of professionalism in her role as varsity coach that Hanna plans to emulate. Brown not only had a wealth of experience, but was open to new ideas too, something that Hanna admires. “Her former players would come back from their colleges with new ideas and drills to share,” which Brown was happy to incorporate in to her program.
Brown’s tendency to move players around to various positions to develop depth both on an individual basis and as a team is a strategy Hanna will continue to employ. Hanna also plans to continue using the “Brown method” of scouting opponents with ongoing help from Jenica’s father John Brown.
Hanna has developed her own coaching philosophy to lead her in this new role as well. First and foremost, she plans to “focus on the process, and let the outcome take care of itself.” Bumps in the road are expected, and will be dealt with as they come along. “We’re taking it one day at a time,” said Hanna. She expects that team chemistry and accountability amongst teammates will see them through those tough times. A good amount of time has already been spent off the court developing those team bonds.
After graduating five seniors from the 2013 nationally ranked MaxPreps Tour of Champions team, Hanna recognizes that there are some big shoes to fill on the court as well as on the coach’s bench. She is looking to her two senior setters, Hannah Vandergrift (committed to Temple University) and Olivia Aycock (Rider University), as well as senior libero Emily Solis, to fill important leadership roles for the team of 15 players.
Hanna will be assisted by Tad Wymer, the freshman coach from the past two seasons. Hanna’s daughter Juliane is back on the courts too, returning to take her first-time high school coaching job with the JV team at County.
“Juliane has already established such great repor with her girls.” Hanna is also more than happy to use Juliane’s award-winning swinging arm as a practice tool for her varsity squad. Amy Ging will coach the Loudoun County freshman team.
Just to make the Brown-to-Hanna-Family transition complete, Hanna’s oldest daughter Marguerite will be spending time in the gym whenever she is not working as a local physical therapy student intern. Sherrilyn’s husband Stephen, who has always been her biggest supporter, will no doubt continue in that role as well.
Hanna and her Raiders will open their season on August 13 with a scrimmage against Sherando at their home gym. The regular season will start on August 18, against the Broad Run Spartans in Ashburn. As the season begins, Hanna will be reminding her team of the farewell words from one of last season’s departing seniors, Maggie Phillips: “You can win states again. I believe in you.”
And everyone who knows anything about volleyball in Northern Virginia will be wondering if Loudoun County will still be the team to beat.
This article was written by Betsy Scudder, a Loudoun County resident and former Broad Run High School JV and varsity volleyball coach.