Monumental. Impressive. Historic.
Those were the first words that came to Princess Anne boys volleyball head coach Jeff Kinser’s mind when asked to describe the careers of senior captains Chase Howard and Courtland Scharenborg.
The first two adjectives describe the duo’s consistent showcase of skills and dominance.
The third was cemented Friday, when Princcess Anne defeated Maury for the 5A state championship. Howard and Scharenborg became the first two boys volleyball players in Virginia high school history to start on three consecutive state title teams.
In fact, no boys team had ever won three titles in a row until now. The feat didn’t register for the players until Princess Anne Principal Daniel Smith told them about it in the Siegel Center locker room.
“I was in shock,” Scharenborg said. “Just very awesome to hear. To say we made history, it makes you think about what we just did even more.”
The last time Princess Anne lost its last game of the season was in 2012, when the Cavaliers fell to Great Bridge in the region semifinals. Scharenborg, a 6-foot-4 setter, and Howard, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, were freshman starters then. They think that squad should have competed for a state title, too.
“Having that early experience of losing and knowing what it feels like, I think it was a pretty big deal,” Howard said. “Courtland and I talked about how we weren’t going to let that happen again.
“And we didn’t.”
In the four years they started side-by-side, the duo guided Princess Anne to a 105-19 record over regular and postseason play. They won 85 percent of their games.
Scharenborg and Howard started playing the sport together in the sixth grade. Three years later, as 14-year-old freshmen, they were playing crucial roles on a playoff team. Their sophomore year, their coach handed them the car keys.
“They both matured tremendously,” Kinser said. “We had early conversations where it was, ‘Listen, other kids are going to look at you to be the leader. You have to be the better person in every situation, be more coach-able, because you are looked at highly in these regards.’ “
They handled the pressure, Kinser said.
“And their mindset — they’re so intelligent,” he said. “They’re teaching us (Kinser and assistant coach Tim Stacy), too while they’re teaching everyone else.”
The elite talent brought even higher expectations. Scharenborg and Howard thrived off the pressure and developed a comfort on the court with each other in the process.
Howard never worried about an off-set from Scharenborg. He knew his setter would find ways to find him, whether in the front row or the back. And Scharenborg didn’t need a perfect pass to hookup with his go-to hitter lurking on the outside, itching to get a hand on the ball.
“That bond become an unspoken, ‘You know what you’re supposed to do. I know what I’m supposed to do,’ ” Howard said. ” ‘I’m going to get it done for you. You’re going to get it done for me,’ type of thing.”
The Cavaliers lost seniors to graduation from the 2013 and 2014 title teams, but with Scharenborg and Howard there, it was never a “rebuilding year” for Princess Anne. With that duo in the lineup, the Cavaliers remained a favorite regardless of the supporting cast.
“We were supposed to win again with almost a completely different team,” Howard said. “That pressure of everyone expecting us to win, and knowing that we could win, makes it difficult because you still have to go out and do it.”
Both players will play Division 1 volleyball next year — Howard at Harvard and Scharenborg at Ball State.
Scharenborg will miss the bus rides, Howard humming down his sets and his buddy’s presence on the same side of the net. Howard will miss giving Scharenborg “the stare” before serves, a gesture that meant trouble for opponents.
“He’s a brother to me,” Scharenborg said. “It’s sad knowing that it’s over and I can’t share any more moments with him.”
And while Princess Anne can’t replace the departing stars, Kinser says his Cavaliers are prepared for another run next year, thanks in no small part to Scharenborg and Howard.
“It is going to be weird not putting their names down on paper,” Kinser said. “But even if they’re not going to be on the court, that guidance and direction they’ve given to the younger guys will be there in spirit.”
It’s one legacy from two players.
“It’s a dynasty at PA that will never be taken away from us,” Howard said. “It’s cool to think about all the years, to know that, together, we created this.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better person to do it with.”