After 8,014 days, and some individual state title winners, a team proudly wearing a Patrick Henry Patriot uniform raised a state championship trophy high above their heads.
"Finally" was the Patriots own word to describe their five-set marathon win over Maury at home Tuesday night to send them to Thursday afternoon's 5A State Championship against Princess Anne, a team Patrick Henry fell to a week earlier in the Western Section Finals in five sets.
But that first match did not include Patriots setter Adam Lane, who was healthy and ready, along with the rest of his teammates, as they took the court to avenge the defeat and seize a championship years in the making.
A cursory look at the match statistics show a true team effort in the Patriots' three-set sweep, 25-22, 25-13, 25-22. The match was highlighted by a defensive effort, both in digging and blocking, that few teams in the Central Region have matched this season. And there may not be a better individual set played in Virginia this year than what Jarrett Carrano put together in set two, a set which saw the Patriots separate themselves from the Cavaliers in a match almost everyone expected to go the full five sets.
"Jarrett's a baller," said Patrick Henry head coach Michael Townsend, who was a eighth grader sitting on the bench the last time the Patriots played for a state title, a five-set loss to Clover Hill in 2001 in the former Group AAA format. "He's 5' 11", but he will go for anything."
Both schools enjoyed strong student section support, and the first set went back and forth, as everyone expected, before the Patriots pulled out the three-point win. That set the stage for both Carrano on the attack, joined defensively by Jaxon Delgado, Luke Puckett and others, to seize the momentum of the match with the second set victory.
It seemed early in set three it was all but over, but the Cavaliers, a regular participant at the state championship level, had one more run in them, tying the set several times before Patrick Henry was able to get two points at the end to set off a celebration that included the paying off of a bet.
"The guys told me if we won states back in August, I would have to dive on the floor and let them do the dogpile," Townsend recalled. "I had hoped they had forgotten about that, until they reminded me of it in our meeting last night."
The bet was from senior Carter Riddle, who wasn't interested from the first day of practice in watching this season be a preparation for a possible state title run next year.
"I have to say it. I called it first," Riddle said with a big smile during the post-game press conference.
The last time that Patrick Henry won a team state championship was in football, when Ray Long's Patriots knocked off Deep Creek 21-7 at City Stadium on December 10, 1994.
8,014 days ago.
With all major contributors on the court other than Riddle returning next season, the Patriots may not have to wait that long again.
A complete report on the Patrick Henry championship will appear in the Thanksgiving Week edition of the Herald-Progress.
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