Southside Daily’s Joe Saade will bring you a series of team spotlights at the end of every sports season.
Here he looks at Virginia Beach girls volleyball for 2015. Kellam and First Colonial will be featured in the days ahead.
Princess Anne (29-3) 5A state semifinalist
Key moment of regular season: Every day. Practices, games and everything in between. Coach Craig Dooren said it was all done with a focus on returning the state final.
Key stats: Freshman outside hitter Jayna Francis broke the program record for most kills as a freshman (182). Junior setter Alyssa Presto, the 5A South Region Player of the Year, broke the school record for most assists in a season (874). Junior middle hitter Chika Osuchukwu led the team with 230 kills.
Defining moment of state semifinals (3-2 loss to Stone Bridge): Already up 2-1, the Cavaliers held a 20-10 lead in the fourth set and were five points from a 3-1 win and a second consecutive trip to the state final. Stone Bridge pulled off an incredible late rally to take that set 27-25, forcing a fifth set that it won 15-13. Dooren said it was a battle to the finish: “Our girls never stopped fighting. They never stopped. It was a classic.”
Coach Craig Dooren: “High expectations yield high results. We apply high expectations on us. The problem is, it hurts when you actually lose. I’m so proud of them. Our girls worked hard. I felt for them. The fact they didn’t get it (a state title), was very disappointing. But, no excuses. Our girls fought till the end.”
Unsung hero: Dooren couldn’t name just one, there were so many contributors. Seniors Spencer Rizzo (125 digs), and Addie Blackwell (81 kills, 95 digs) earned starting spots. Peyton Washington, a sophomore hitter, started outside and even played in the state semifinal with a knee bone bruise. Junior Ashley Burgess led the team with 400 service points. “That’s what made this season special,” Dooren said. “No one person could do it all.”
Future: Another heart-breaking end to the season adds another layer of fuel for a team that will return most of its core next year. While senior starters Rizzo and Blackwell depart, five starters will be back. Presto, Washington, Burgess, Osuchukwu, and conference Player of the Year Abby Bottomley headline a talented lineup that will be eager for another deep run. “We’re going to be back,” Dooren said. “They’re hungry — they’re not going to forget this moment. The motto is, ‘We wanna leave the gym smiling, not crying.’ We’ve been there, done that the past two years. They want to change that.”