Adreyune Husted sat in the press conference chair at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center, his arms folded and disappointment on his face.
His Ocean Lakes boys volleyball team had just suffered a 3-0 loss (23-25, 21-25, 16-25) to James River in the 6A state championship game Friday.
The standout junior setter carried the scrappy Dolphins further than many outsiders thought they would go this season, but he still wanted more.
“It was a good atmosphere, loud, something we weren’t quite used to,” Husted said. “We just had to come in here and get our heads wrapped around and I don’t think we quite got there.”
James River, which lost the state final last year to Cox, returned to the championship and swept the Dolphins this time, but the game was closer than the scoreboard read.
Ocean Lakes fell behind 6-0 in the first set before regrouping and putting together a rally that fell just short. In the second frame, the Dolphins held a 7-5 lead before the Rapids finished on a 20-14 run. There were three ties in that set after it went to 9-9, but the Dolphins never regained the lead.
Ocean Lakes fell behind early again in the final set, 5-1, and could never keep their momentum going when it was needed most.
“Everybody’s got a game plan till you get punched in the mouth,” Dolphins coach Mike Boomer said. “We didn’t hit the corners like we usually do. I think our passing took us out of sync. That team, every point they get on you, you gotta make them earn it. We gave them too many points.”
James River’s all-around offensive weapons were too much for Ocean Lakes’ defense. Five Rapids players recorded four or more kills. David Forrest led James River with 11 kills, three blocks and three digs. John Holahan filled the stats sheet with six kills, two blocks, seven aces and 20 digs. Junior setter Kyle Brumbaugh showcased his savvy skill set with 32 assists, four kills, two aces and 11 digs.
The Rapids unloaded an arsenal that would have overpowered any team in the state.
“That team today was the better team,” Boomer said. “They’re very, very savvy. They just don’t make mistakes, and we made a lot.”
Husted kept Ocean Lakes neck-and-neck for the majority of the game, finishing with 33 assists, three kills, one ace and 12 digs. The intelligent, well-disciplined setter found ways to create offensive sets out of nothing. Senior hitters Derron Watkins (19 kills) and Sean Whiteman (13 kills) powered the Dolphins offense. Junior libero Colton Demetriou finished with 19 digs.
Friday’s loss ended the Dolphins’ season in disappointment, but it didn’t diminish their impressive run to Richmond.
“This team is special,” Boomer said. “I’m so blessed to be with them. They took me for a fun ride this year and I appreciate that. It breaks me because I know it hurts them. They’re family. They love each other. I know they don’t see it now, and I know it hurts, but they’ll be alright. There’s lessons here.”
Husted’s frown departed when the attention moved from the loss to the team’s favorite season memories. Asked to name the most memorable moment, he didn’t point to a win.
Husted mentioned the bus ride to the championship game, when the team sang karaoke with a portable speaker to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.’ ”
“We were just having fun,” he said, smiling. “We were being who we were.”
The Dolphins didn’t stumble into the championship game by accident. They battled through a tough 6A South Region before losing to a James River team that played almost flawlessly.
Whiteman leaves the program with his head high. He’s proud of what Ocean Lakes accomplished, and the loss Friday didn’t change that.
“We came here as a family and we’ll leave here as a family,” he said.
Husted looked over to Whiteman and nodded with a smile. Boomer grinned.
“Amen,” the coach said.