Winning one state championship is tough. Repeating is harder. A third title in a row?
No Virginia high school boys volleyball team had accomplished that feat until Friday, when Princess Anne closed the curtain on a third-consecutive state championship with a 3-1 win (25-19, 24-26, 25-23, 25-15) over Maury in the 5A state final at VCU’s Siegel Center.
“I feel relieved, honestly,” a relaxed Chase Howard joked as he leaned back in his seat during the post-game press conference. “I can take a breath.”
The Cavaliers didn’t take much of a breath all season, having been pegged as a favorite to finish on top. With a mammoth target on their back all year, the champs couldn’t afford to ease off the gas pedal.
“The whole season everyone was coming after us because we won twice in a row,” Howard said. “The whole season we’ve been expecting to win three.”
The quest culminated against a familiar Commodores squad that the Cavaliers had already beaten three out of the four times they played this season.
Princess Anne coach Jeff Kinser said before Friday’s match that the team that gets the most out of its “big boys” will most likely come away with the big trophy. Kinser’s “big boy” senior duo of captains Howard and Courtland Scharenborg proved him right.
Howard finished with a game-high 31 kills and added 17 digs, four aces and three blocks. Scharenborg notched a game-high 46 assists with six kills, nine digs, three aces and three blocks.
Cam Shannon added six kills, while libero Zach Sinacoi added 14 digs. Josh Best was a force in the middle with six blocks.
Scharenborg said he was a little nervous before the game. Howard was, too. On the court, however, they approached each high and low with the same business-like approach.
It was always on to the next point. The mantra eventually led to the most important point of the match. Leading 24-15 in the fourth set, a Scharenborg set to a high-flying Howard on the outside was executed to perfection. It closed the book on two illustrious careers with three state titles.
“Even though they said they’re nervous, this is the reason why their D1 athletes,” Kinser said. “These two always play at an amazing level. Without these two, we’re not here.”
Maury senior outside hitter Shane Limbaugh put on a monstrous performance (30 kills, 13 digs, three aces) that kept the Commodores fighting in each set. Senior setter Charlie Seerden finished with 36 assists and seven digs. Andrew Lyons added nine kills and six blocks.
Princess Anne was never out of the woods against a Maury team that had rallied from an 0-2 deficit in its semifinals upset of Mills Godwin.
Leading 24-22 in the third set, the Cavaliers couldn’t afford to fumble away another match-point set to the Commodores, as they did in the second set with a 24-23 lead.
A Scharenborg dime to Howard ended that third set, 25-23.
The Princess Anne bench exhaled. The team rolled with that momentum into a fourth set that may have been the best frame of its last three games.
“We got all the energy, and they lost some,” Howard said. “That energy and emotion we gained from wining that third set just carried out through the fourth set. As soon as that third set was over, it was game over for us. We knew that we won.”
Scharenborg and Howard leave as two of the program’s most successful athletes. Howard will play college volleyball at Harvard, while Scharenborg will play for Ball State.
The two leave a program that they helped build into one of the most successful in the state.
“Everybody looked up to us, me and Chase,” Scharenborg said. “Now we have a lot of kids that want to come out to be a part of this legacy.”