Make no mistake about it.
The Lord Botetourt volleyball team is the real deal.
The Cavaliers put the exclamation point on a perfect 23-0 regular season on Oct 19th in the Northside gym with a dominating 25-10; 25-22; 25-12 win over the talented Vikings.
It’s easy to see what leads the Lady Cavs to their success. They have every shot in the books, play solid defense and display a team chemistry and on-court communication that are unflappable.
It’s all a satisfying reward for 6th year head coach Julie Conner, who was almost in tears several years ago, when as the new kid on the block, came oh-so-close to defeating then volleyball juggernaut Cave Spring and their 5-time state championship head coach Tamalyn Tanis in a regional match at Staunton River High School.
Now, Conner and Lord Botetourt have clearly made the move to join the top teams in the area.
The current run is even more spectacular considering the team has pulled the trick with only one senior, Lara Veldman. Veldman says it was a team goal from the outset.
“Early in the year we came in every day and worked hard,” Veldman noted after Thursday night’s victory. “We knew there was a lot of potential and we knew we could do this.”
Botetourt challenged itself from the opening serve of the season when it defeated defending VHSL Group 3A state champion Hidden Valley in a 3-0 sweep. They followed with 3-0 wins in 13 of their next 15 games, giving up a game point only twice in a pair of 3-1 wins over Blacksburg.
That led to a perfect 5-0 run to capture the Tournament of Champions showcase event at Patrick Henry High School last weekend, including sweeps of Loudoun County, the winners of nine of the last 10 Group AA or Group 4A state titles, along with sweeps of Hidden Valley, Cave Spring, Middleburg Academy and Patrick Henry.
The Cavaliers’ closest call of the season came against James River when it was taken to a 5th set, 15-point tiebreaker before Botetourt rallied for the 3-2 win.
“We needed that 5-set match,” Lara Veldman said. “We needed to be challenged.”
“We have a good group of girls who have a common goal and work hard to achieve it,” Connor added. “We went to a team camp at Liberty University before the season and I realized there was a lot of potential. We’re a well-rounded team with strong hitting. When our serve-receive to the hitter is on, we can be a very tough team. These girls are serious. Their goal is to get to Richmond for the state finals.”
The Lady Cavs have continued their impressive streak into the early part of postseason play. They waltzed through the Blue Ridge District tournament, knocking off Staunton River and Northside in consecutive 3-0 sweeps to take the title.
On Monday, Botetourt opened the Class 3 Region D tournament at home with another 3-0 sweep, this time over the Magna Vista Warriors. That set up a semifinal match Tuesday night against Abingdon, a 3-1 winner over Northside in first round regional action.
In that matchup at the Hidden Valley gym, it was all Cavaliers as Botetourt punched its ticket to the state quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Abingdon to run their record to 27-0. Botetourt was in control from the outset of the 25-10; 25-18; 25-16 win as Miette Veldman slammed down 15 kills, sister Lara added 9, with Reinhard and Brooklyn Shelton finding the hardwood in the Falcon zone with 7 kills each.
Botetourt advanced to face Hidden Valley on Thursday night in the Titan gym with the only thing at stake being that the winner opens the first round of the state tournament at home, while the loser hits the road. For Conner, it’s the first time any of her Cavalier teams have reached the elite state-8.