(Ashburn, Nov. 11, 2014) —In a match between the Region 5A 2nd seed Stone Bridge Bulldogs and 8th ranked Thomas Jefferson Colonials, brain versus brawn was the expected theme of the night. However, the match proved to be quite a bit closer than the home team expected.
After a quick win in the first set with a commanding score of 25-13, Stone Bridge fans talked about going home early to rest up for the next match of the post season schedule. The second set started with TJ’s head coach Helen Alexander Smith calling a time out at 8-2. Later in the match Bulldog’s senior outside hitter Heidi Engebreth served three aces in a row to widen the score deficit to 16-8. But then The Colonial’s freshman libero Amanda Hsu went back to the serving line and stayed there for the next 7 serves. With TJ looking at a tie score for the first time of the night, senior outside hitter and Air Force commit Maria Velicu jumped up for a kill that brought TJ up to Stone Bridge’s 16 points. The Colonials tied the game a second time at 20-20 with a solid solo block kill by senior middle blocker Alexis Gillmore against Stone Bridge’s spectacular senior hitter and
USC commit Shannon Williams. But the end-game pressure brought the Bulldog’s defense back to life, led by junior libero Abby DeVido. A forearms-on-the-floor serve receive save by sophomore defensive specialist Ryley Gill prevented
TJ’s Velicu from acing the home team and gave Stone Bridge a 23-20 lead. A joust at the net was deemed touched out of bounds by the Colonials, allowing the Bulldogs to gain set point, and with the next play, to take the win.
Now up two sets to none, Stone Bridge relaxed a bit; perhaps a bit too much. TJ came out to an early lead after some confusion in the Bulldog’s line up which saw Dunlop serving out of rotation. With this point advantage, the Colonials tied the score, then
pulled ahead for just the second time in the match with two consecutive short serve aces by senior defensive specialist Katie Cox. Stone Bridge stayed close on their opponents’ heels tying the score at 6-6, then kept the momentum going until forcing a TJ time out at 14-10. TJ proved to be undaunted and stayed the course with spectacular defensive digs by Velicu and Hsu. Suddenly the score advanced to 23-19. With just two points to go for the match win, the Bulldogs seemed to be primed for a victory. But four unforced errors in a row by the Bulldogs opened the door for the Colonials. At 23-22, Velicu fired off a serve that landed on Stone Bridge’s court before any Bulldog hands could touch it. Tied at 23-23, TJ put up a big block on Stone Bridge junior middle hitter Caitlin Zura, forcing the Bulldogs to take a time out at 23-24. The momentum remained in TJ’s favor, however, and a solid serve by Hsu forced an overpass by Stone Bridge’s Williams resulting in a set-winning kill by Gillmore. The Colonial fans went wild while the Stone Bridge fans sat back, readying themselves for a longer night of volleyball than anticipated.
The fourth set brought even more excitement than the previous. TJ again started out with an early lead of as much as four points with Stone Bridge’s Zura finally scoring the first point with a big kill down the line from the right side. Williams followed suit and fired off several kills, but TJ’s Velicu was there on defense with several amazing digs to keep Williams’ kill count under control. Two setter dumps by Stone Bridge’s senior setter Amy Gottschling kept the momentum going for her team, giving them a 14-10 lead just as they had in Set #3. The Colonials kept their chins up, continuing their defensive drive, and continually feeding the ball back to their opponents. Stone Bridge committed numerous errors until TJ had scored eight points to the Bulldog’s four. With the score tied at 18 points apiece, Stone Bridge’s junior outside hitter Ashlyn Dunlop fired off two kills in a row, and drew the Colonial’s second time out at 20-18. And as in the previous time out, TJ came out of the huddle determined to make the Bulldogs battle it out. After a Stone Bridge serving error, followed by a pounding kill by TJ’s senior outside hitter
Dorothy Wang, the score was tied at 21-21. After another TJ kill by senior right side Melanie Piller, Stone Bridge’s head coach Jill Raschiatore called a time out at 21-22. TJ’s Velicu demonstrated her focus and fire-power with a solid ace serve, making the prospect of a 5-set match a
real possibility. But Stone Bridge’s Williams was determined to avoid the dreaded fifth set and fired off a powerful kill from the middle. After a roll shot error by TJ’s Velicu that fell in to the net, tying the set at 23 apiece, Stone Bridge’s Gottschling set the ball again to Williams who responded with a crucial kill that put the Bulldogs at match point. Thanks to an ill-timed hitting error by TJ that ended the match, the Bulldogs “lived to play another day”, as Coach Raschiatore was heard to say from the winning bench.
The Bulldogs were led by Gottschling with 38 sets, 14 digs, and 7 kills; Williams with 17 kills, 14 digs and 2 blocks; DeVido with 19 digs; Zura with 9 kills and 1 block; and Engebreth with 6 kills and 5 aces. They will face Halifax High School in a Regional semi-final match at Stone Bridge at 7pm on Thurs., 11/14. The winner of this match will gain a berth in the VHSL State tournament next week.