Four straight years to the Siegel Center, and now, their second straight Saturday night championship appearance. And, unlike 2012, where the Atlee Raiders girls volleyball team had Championship Point at 24-23 over eventual titlist Kellam, the Raiders hope to finally finish the job and capture the crown.
They took their final step to the Championship Game with a Thursday morning 4-set win over Broad Run in the State 5A Semifinals at the Siegel Center. Atlee (31-2), spotting the Spartans at 25-23 set 1 victory, tightened up their net game to sweep the final three sets, 25-19, 25-19, 25-20.
Rachel Stanford, who signed to play collegiately at Catawba two days ago, had 40 assists to lead the Raiders, while Clarke Tyler, who signed to play for Norfolk State the same morning, had 14 kills and 5 timely blocks.
But it was junior Maddie French who stepped up at the most important time, with 15 kills, 6 digs and 2 blocks, hugging the near sideline with kills on several occasions, frustrating the Spartan defense.
"I wasn't nervous, I was confident," French said after the match. "It was my first time playing here (in state-level competition) and I wanted to play well."
French's performance reminded this reporter of then-junior Tyler's "coming out" party during the 2012 State Tournament, where Atlee defeated Stone Bridge in a five-set thriller in the state semis, Tyler's kill attempt blocked out of bounds on match point to send the Raiders to the finals.
Awaiting Atlee Saturday night? Stone Bridge.
Stone Bridge defeated Broad Run in all four of their meetings this season (playing in the same Conference and Region), mirroring the Atlee/Lee-Davis rivalry, only, if you can believe it, closer. The two Northern Virginia schools are separated by a single mile.
Atlee, in their first state appearance in 2010, lost to Stone Bridge in the semifinals. So Saturday's championship match will be "the rubber match", and, much more importantly, for all the marbles and the first-ever Class 5A State Championship Trophy.
"It'll come down to who is more determined," Atlee head coach Curtis Carpenter said. "And I hope we're that team."
Approximate start time is 7pm at the VCU Siegel Center Saturday night. The match will be the fifth of six on the day's VHSL schedule. Fans should expect to get there early for a good seat, and the Rage Cage should be in full effect.
If you can't make it, follow us on Twitter for live real-time updates all match long, @hanoversports!
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