After winning the VISAA D3 state championship last year after a 15 year drought, the North Cross Raiders Volleyball team managed to knock off #1 ranked cross-town rival Roanoke Catholic last Saturday in Charlottesville to repeat as state champions.
The Raiders, led by coach Heather Donaho, who was the setter on the North Cross team that won gold 16 years ago, were skeptical at the beginning of the year. Players said they were hoping to have a good season but having lost four starting seniors they knew there was going to be a lot of work to do to reach the top again.
The Raiders started strong with a big win over D2 Denbigh Baptist in 5 games but then played several weaker teams that they tended to play down to. Though their only losses of the season were to bigger schools – Division1 LCA (who lost in the state final match), Division 2 Eastern Mennonite (who lost in their state final match) and to local rival and ultimately championship opponent Roanoke Catholic, the team finished the regular season with a record of 18-4 (2 losses to Eastern Mennonite).
Quarter final play started with a game again Westover Christian, who North Cross had beaten the week before in three games. The Raiders again took the Westover team in three games but in a much more competitive match: 25-21, 25-20, 25-11. The second ranked Raiders were then on to the semi-finals at Covenant School in Charlottesville and were matched up against third ranked Grace Christian. The Raiders came out with focus and determination and put the Grace squad down in threee games as well: 25-15, 25-15, 25-19.
The final step was by far the hardest, a match-up on Saturday against #1 ranked Roanoke Catholic, who the Raiders had lost to in the regular season. The first game of the match was one for the ages with point after hard fought point being contested to the end by the two rivals. As the lead changed back and forth and the teams approached and went past the 25 points mark it became clear that whoever could come out with the win was going to have a great deal of needed confidence and momentum going forward. The Raiders got the extra point they needed on a well placed tip by MVP Kaki Comer and took the game 27-25. From there things went almost all North Cross’s way as the deflated Celtics struggled in game 2, losing 25-16, but showed poise and determination before falling 25-20 in the final.
When asked if she thought this team could repeat as champions Heather Donahue replied with no hesitation, “Yes, I did – I knew we had the horses to do it . . .” She then added with a broad smile, “Wow – what a season.”
The All State All Tournament Team consisted of: Aidan Guilfoyle – Roanoke Catholic – Mairin Guilfoyle – Roanoke Catholic – Emma Caveness – North Cross, Gussie Revercomb – North Cross, Mary Hrvot – Grace Christian and Sarah Sharpley – Broadwater. Tournament MVP – Kaki Comer – North Cross.