On Monday night in Spotsylvania County, deficits never mattered to Powhatan Volleyball.
The Indians went down in the first set 10-3 and rallied to win it 28-26. They fell behind 19-13 in the third only to battle back to take a 23-22 lead.
They were down 11-5 in the fifth tiebreaker set and charged back into the picture to trail 12-10 and 14-12.
But in the end, Courtland was able to rally out of a 2-set deficit and win a wild regional semifinal in five (26-28, 18-25, 26-24, 15-12) to advance to both the Region 4B final and the Class 4 state tournament.
It was a heartbreaking end to the season for Powhatan (16-4, 19-6 including invitational games), who with a 23-22 third-set lead was two points away from advancing to Wednesday’s final and to states in straight-sets.
But still, in the words of Powhatan head coach Cindy Bryant, the Powhatan Indians “had a great season.” When the coaches and players sat together in a circle near a corner in Courtland High School’s gymnasium moments after the loss, Coach Bryant noted how the younger players were thanking the upperclassmen for treating them with kindness and for teaching them in kind ways.
“That is the war we wanted to win this year,” Coach Bryant said, echoing the team’s focus on the culture component before the season began. “We’re thankful that we succeeded in that.”
And when the team sat together after the game, the players –while the coaches understandably didn’t expect them to be happy in that moment – were able to say positive things about the season and to each other.
Coach Bryant was also super-impressed and proud of how far her young players have come this season, with four of the team’s five sophomores holding starting roles. Among Powhatan’s sophomores, Allie Dulio racked up 18 digs, Faith Henderson delivered 5 kills and 2 blocks, Kendal McMullin made 11 digs and Bryson Amorese tallied up 7 digs and a whopping 43 assists while sneaking two of her setter dump attacks past the Cougars for two kills. Among the juniors, Natalie Mueller had 7 kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks and 15 digs and Kenzie Urbine made 2 kills, 2 blocks and 3 digs.
Senior DePaul commit Sierra Ellison was able to hammer the ball on booming hits throughout the match, racking up 19 kills and adding 2 aces. She also made a block and defended well with 17 digs. And senior middle Star Bryant, who secured her team a 28-26 first-set win when she spotted a deep kill in the corner, made 15 kills and added 7 digs, 3 blocks and an ace.
All four of Powhatan’s seniors – Ellison, Star, Zoe Higley and McKenna Adams – have played huge roles at different points of the season, with Higley making keynote kills on well-placed attacks in games and Adams helping her team win sets and matches on strong defensive play.
“I’m hoping that all four seniors get to look back and say, ‘I felt valued and had a role in my team – I was an asset to my team this season,’” Coach Bryant said.
In looking ahead, the future remains bright for Powhatan. In addition to the plethora of young talent that heavily contributed to the Indians’ dominant 2019 season, the Powhatan Volleyball program this year featured “10 really talented 9th graders” on the JV team according to Coach Bryant.
“We’re seeing Powhatan Volleyball’s going to be good for seasons to come.”