Thursday, November 30, 2017

HONORS: All-Region Volleyball in Class 4

Congratulations to the following student-athletes for being named to the 2017 Region 4B Girls All-Region and Class 4 Western Section Boys All-Sectional Volleyball Teams:



Adam Wajciechowski, Midlothian
Adam Lane, Patrick Henry
Jarrett Carrano, Patrick Henry
Jaxon Delgado, Patrick Henry
Turner Cole, Hanover
Sammy Verela, Midlothian
Luke Puckett, Patrick Henry
Griffin Meyers, Hanover
Connor Logan, Patrick Henry (Libero)


Ethan Smith, Midlothian
Michael McDonald, Maggie Walker GS
CW McIlhenny, Patrick Henry
Grayson Andrews, Colonial Heights
Haden Crowder, Colonial Heights
Brendan English, Hanover
Andrew Porter, Monacan
Tyler Dowdy, Midlothian
Jake Will, Monacan (Libero)


Hunter Taylor, Maggie Walker GS
Josh Altman, Hanover

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Adam Wajciechowski, Midlothian
COACH OF THE YEAR: Michael Townsend, Patrick Henry



Kylie Tuxford, Hanover
Megan Kratzer, Hanover
Abbi Leeper, Midlothian
Sydney Collins, Chancellor
Quinn Kellogg, Hanover
Anna Jordan, Courtland
Jessica Sullivan, Midlothian
Abby Nee, Powhatan
Abby Wiles, Courtland (Libero)


Syera McCormick, Courtland
Baylea Botello, Midlothian
Makensie Coates, Chancellor
Elimma Aguolu, King George
Sierra Ellison, Powhatan
Olivia Everhart, Hanover
Haley McDaniel, Chancellor
Brooke Bailey, Midlothian
Enjhalika Esmena, Midlothian (Libero)


Melody Washington, Chancellor
Kaitlyn Hunt, Courtland
Emily Flamm, Courtland
Hannah Koepfinger, King George
Kaite Bentz, King George
Kristnia Zuniga, King George
Ashlie Crawford, Louisa
Grace Girdley, Patrick Henry
Mason Creery, Monacan
Maddie Turner, Powhatan
Leslie Anne Currie, Hanover
Lauren Hughes, Hanover

REGION PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kylie Tuxford, Hanover
REGION COACH OF THE YEAR: Greg Knight, Hanover

Friday, November 24, 2017

2017-18 High School Basketball Preview

From the pages of this week's edition of The Herald Progress, here is our RVA Sports Network 2017-18 high school basketball preview in Hanover County.


While the Class of 2017 took several key players from many teams, the next generation of boys and girls basketball players are ready to step up and help their teams take the next step this season. With Atlee and Lee-Davis in the rugged Region 5B, they'll have to deal with the likes of L.C. Bird, Highland Springs and Henrico in trying to earn a postseason bid, while Hanover and Patrick Henry must contend with the likes of Monacan, Midlothian and others in Region 4B.

GIRLS: After two seasons achieving the State Quarterfinals, Atlee (22-7) loses eight to graduation, returning just one starter in junior guard Aya Youssef. There is experience back with Nada Youssef, Kayla Maxson and Addison Raso all seeing extensive playing time a season ago. But now, they must carry the load. Head coach Michael Rawlings calls this season a "reload", and knows experience itself cannot be replaced.

"A lot of pressure will be placed on the freshmen and lone sophomore to gain strength and confidence," Rawlings noted, looking to three freshmen guards, Khari Rucker, Kelly Ayer and Laci Miller to contribute early. Faith Anna comes in from field hockey and lacrosse to offer a physical presence inside, and junior Tori Puttkamer could log some important minutes, too.

After years of building, Hanover (13-11) finally broke through a season ago. A winning record was a major turning point for the program, and as head coach Mike Rohr begins his fifth season on the sidelines, he has several building blocks with which to create a team that could even go deeper into the postseason.

Sophomore guard Jordan Davis has unlimited potential, and looks to be the Hawks' best scoring threat, while senior point guard Rachael Metzger will again run the show. Inside, Ellen Palya and Sarah Johnson return to build on last season's success. Madison Miller and Shelby Walker return at guard, and three freshmen hit the scene in guard Julia Mardigian and forwards Abigail Long and Adrianna Jacobs. 

"We have to be the more aggressive team every night, and we have to win the rebounding battle," Rohr said. "We've put a lot of hard work in during the offseason to become bigger, faster, and stronger."

Last season was difficult for Patrick Henry, not having standout Aryna Taylor, now at Mount St. Mary's, due to a knee injury. This season, they turn the page, and head coach Phillip Cobb builds around guards JaBryah Haverkamp and Hailey Draper, and sophomore Jamie Hughes in the post. Cali DeShazo can play the two, three or four, while Piper Mullins joins Hughes underneath. Saxon Radcliffe expects to see more time, while freshmen guards Ava Smith and Sydney Miceli and sophomore Blair Rhodes join the roster.

"This is my first year going into the season with no seniors on the team," Cobb explained. "We'll miss some of that senior leadership, but it gives us time to develop and grow."

Also hoping to grow, and push for a playoff spot in Region 5B, is Lee-Davis (7-15), bringing back two starters in forwards Codie Heilig and Megan Brooks. Emma Sweeney, Madison Williams, Kaylee Gray and Sierra Talley bring back experience, while head coach Alvin Puller hopes Carlee Harding, Tori Heller, Shaynia Bonds and Lauren Foley can bring depth to a team that has needed it in past seasons.

"We're still young, but we're learning more and more every day. Their basket IQ is getting higher, so hopefully that will help us be successful this year," Puller noted.

BOYS: The lone coaching change in the offseason came at Atlee, where Rally Axselle takes over for Phil Reynolds, now an assistant at Varina. He inherits sharp shooting guard Carson Miller and inside force Tyler Warren. Juniors Jackson Baitinger and Andrew Cook saw some time last year. Axselle has an influx of new blood on the roster, with juniors Alan Williams, Jayce Catterton, Donnie Oliver and Jackson Weatherly, and several sophomores, including Nick Conway and Andre Coleman.

"If our team 'buys in' and accepts their roles, we will succeed," Axselle told the Herald Progress. "We aren't thinking about late season success. We are trying to improve every day, now, as individuals and as a team."

Chad Bishop continues to work toward those goals at Lee-Davis. Coming off just a three-win season, there's plenty of optimism around the Confederates in this, Bishop's third year. Elijah Jones, Devin Christian and Cole Keech return with starting experience up and down the court. Junior forwards Adonis Carroll and Avery Fusco will need to contribute, as will senior forwards Devin McDonald and Stephon Sparks. James Wallace, as a sophomore, should run the point.

"Point guard play will be our biggest test as we move Wallace into the starting lineup and take Devin and move him to his natural position at two guard," Bishop noted. "Christian is our returning leading scorer, and will be counted on nightly to provide offense."

Look for Keech to be the on-court and off-court leader of the Confederate squad, who will be more athletic and look to translate that into more victories.

A postseason run of prolific proportions gave Hanover a 14-14 finish and a trip to the former Class 4A State Semifinals. Having lost seven players to graduation, head coach Darren Thornton rebuilds around returnees Jaylin Ross, Josh Blue and Will Fahed. There will be a lot of new blood, including guards Tyler McCormick, Keion Murphy and John Taylor and forwards Colin Hudson and James Stephens. D.J. Sims will provide production as a freshman.

"Jaylin will be one of our main guys because of the way he ended last year," Thornton explained. "He was our main scorer off the bench with 18 points a game when the playoffs started. Sims will be one of the main guys because of his explosive ability to get to the rim, and his overall basketball IQ in getting others involved."

At Patrick Henry (3-19), seventh year head coach Randy Anderson loses five to graduation, but can build around two returning starters in junior guard Devyn Coles and sophomore forward Tysen Brown. A trio of seniors return with experience to help settle the foundation in 6'1" forward Rory Ailor, 5'11" guard Jamel "Spanky" Jackson and 5'10" guard Seth Foster. 

The Patriots will need quick contributions by two new seniors on the squad, especially 6'3" forward Noah Carroll, who will bring much needed height inside to pair with the 6'2" Brown.

"Stephon Wattie, who graduated, was our muscle and toughness in the paint," Anderson noted. "We need toughness up front. These guys need to trust and believe in the process, meaning that if they listen to what we are teaching them in practice, we could be a really good team."

The season officially begins Monday when the Patrick Henry girls team visits Louisa. All local teams begin play next week, and the first of six "Rivalry Night" doubleheaders involving county teams is Friday December 8th when the Patriots go to Hanover, while Atlee goes to Lee-Davis.


Friday December 8: Patrick Henry at Hanover; Atlee at Lee-Davis
Friday January 5: Hanover at Atlee; Lee-Davis at Patrick Henry
Friday January 12: Patrick Henry at Atlee; Lee-Davis at Hanover
Friday January 19: Lee-Davis at Atlee, Hanover at Patrick Henry
Friday January 26: Atlee at Hanover; Patrick Henry at Lee-Davis (L-D HOF Night)
Friday February 2: Atlee at Patrick Henry; Hanover at Lee-Davis

Thursday, November 23, 2017

BACK TO BACK: Patriots Roll To Class 4 Volleyball Title

A year ago, they arrived at the Siegel Center in downtown Richmond the surprise underdogs, the team happy to be there, the one that wasn't supposed to win. A few hours later, Patrick Henry boys volleyball completed the magic carpet ride to their first-ever state crown, and the school's first in 22 years.

They left the Siegel Center that evening the immediate heavy favorites to repeat as champions in 2017 as the school moved down from Class 5 to Class 4 in Virginia High School League (VHSL) classification, a biennial event due to enrollment changes. So, how does "the hunter" handle being "the hunted".


The word head coach Michael Townsend used to describe his Patriots, who, in his own words, did not play their best volleyball last Thursday afternoon, but it was enough to sweep Midlothian in three sets, 25-21, 25-23, 25-19, to capture the Class 1-4 State Volleyball Championship. Patrick Henry did not lose a regulation five-set match all year, ending with a composite record of 26-1, their only defeat by a two sets to one count to eventual Class 5 champion Deep Run at the Virginia Volleyball Showcase September 1st.

To complete the dominance, the Patriots went to Deep Run three weeks later and won a five-set thriller for Townsend's 100th career coaching win. Now, a little less than two months later, the team he dreamed of three years ago not only dominated their final competition, they never let you see them sweat. 

Attacks came from all around the court. CW McIlhenny found holes in the Trojan defense left, right, and middle, leading Patrick Henry with 14 kills, his final kill coming on Championship Point which sent Townsend into his now tradition of "court diving" onto the floor, allowing his team to dog pile on top of him to start the title celebration. 

That doesn't happen, however, without strong offense, and stout defense. Jaxon Delgado and Jarrett Carrano had eight kills each, as the Patriots had five team blocks, Delgado teaming with Adam Lane and Luke Puckett on multiple occasions. When Midlothian launched a run, the Patriots held it back.

The jitters, however, got to both teams early. The vastness of the Siegel Center, when compared to your local high school gym, and the bravado of the occasion, the opportunity, led to service errors by both the Patriots and Trojans, even into sets two and three. It was part of the Patriot performance that no one was happy with. But the team found ways to overcome them, forcing additional Trojan errors, and feeding their plethora of offensive weapons.

The bottom line from Townsend, all season long, and emphasized again on this day by his team, was a relentless pursuit of the volleyball, which sounds simple enough. But it means sacrificing your body over and over again, soaring, diving, doing anything possible by any means necessary to keep the ball from hitting the gym floor.

"There's many drills I do in practice that implement, you know, not letting the ball hit the floor, and the defense was absolutely relentless, as it has been all season," Townsend noted. "When we don't play good defense, we don't play well as a team. We played really good defense. I wish our block would have been a little better, but Midlothian has great hitters and run a great offense."

That attitude, eventually, is also meant to crack the veneer of the opposition, and, in set three, it was readily apparent that the Patriots would soon hold another trophy. After the Trojans opened the set on a 5-2 run, the Patriots bounced back, taking the lead at 8-7. Carrano would send a kill down to end an especially tight battle at the net to up the lead to 12-9. A moment later, he aced. It was 14-10. The race to 25, for the final time, was in high gear.

After a Trojan kill, Delgado powered one of his own right from the middle of the net to make it 15-11. McIlhenny hit from the left, Delgado repeated in the middle, and in the blink of an eye, it was 23-18. On Championship Point, the defense held one final time, Adam Lane sending his 30th and final Patriot assist to McIlhenny left side, who ended the season with authority, adding another state trophy to the case in Ashland.

"This is my fourth year with the team, I've been with these guys since ninth grade, and we moved up together, had a ton of fun times. It's my favorite thing I do," noted Lane after the match. "We love to play together. Playing good volleyball is what I'll miss the most."

Lane, libero Connor Logan, who had eight digs and an ace, and Luke Puckett, who had nine digs and three kills, are among seven seniors who ended their Patriot careers by hoisting another title towards the spirited Patrick Henry student section. This means Carrano, Delgado, McIlhenny, and Cal Inge will return a nucleus more than capable of allowing the Patriots to make yet another run come 2018.

For Townsend, who sat on the bench and watched Patrick Henry lose a heartbreaker to Clover Hill in the 2001 State Championship, then spent fifteen years of dreaming to bring Patrick Henry to the mountaintop, that's simply the next step in the process.

"I hope it leads to more," Townsend said when asked about the legacy of the Class of 2018. Seniors on this team will have two championships to their credit, something no one else has ever been able to say since Patrick Henry opens its doors in 1959.

"I want our school to be a volleyball school. I want 20, 30 kids trying out every year," Townsend noted. "If we have those numbers, I know I can coach those kids to get them right where these guys are right now."

The returning Patriots, and the coaching staff, left Siegel Center on this occasion happy, elated, thrilled for the seniors especially, but not totally satisfied. There is another championship available for the taking just twelve months from now, and you can be certain that the foundation for another run at the title is already being laid down Route 54.