For four years, setter Megan Wilson and outside hitter Kaiya Heyliger-Powell have been fine-tuning their connection, and it’s grown so strong that all they need is hand signals and one-word play calls to know what the other is going to do.
But Sherwood’s senior duo doesn’t want to dominate the attack this fall — at least not like they have in past seasons.
“We’re trying to get that connection Kaiya and I have to kind of resonate with the entire team,” said Wilson, a Virginia commit. “Putting in the extra work to make sure that I’m connecting with everyone.”
Wilson and Heyliger-Powell (East Carolina) helped the Warriors go 12-3 last season and they were one of only three teams to take a set off Maryland 4A state champion Northwest. Heyliger-Powell (East Carolina), armed with one of the most powerful shots in the D.C area, dominated the Jaguars early on, but was slowed down when blockers were placed in front of her.
It was only one regular season match, but there was a lesson to be taken from it. The book is out on the dangerous duo, and with blockers keying on Kaiya, Sherwood wants to alleviate the pressure by getting others involved, first-year Coach Jake Achten said.
The Warriors have plenty of depth, including seniors Simonne McCantsand Emma Rosenbaum. To put it to use, they have focused on passing to help get Wilson in position to set up other teammates. In one drill, they are tasked with completing 40 perfect passes in 10 minutes; the serve receiver must place the ball into a small circle for the pass to count. Their record is 43, and it took them about 75 serves to pull it off, Wilson said.
“It’s a drill that really encourages us to support each other,” Wilson said. “We’re going to have a hard time sometimes, so I think [it can] make our passes more consistent.”
Sherwood won consecutive 4A titles from 2010 to 2012 and appeared in the state semifinals in 2014. The Warriors’ goal is to get back to that level, Heyliger-Powell said. They want to sweep their Montgomery County competition, which continues with Damascus Thursday and features an Oct. 19 road match against No. 1 Northwest.
“I just need to make this season count because it’s my last in high school,” Heyliger-Powell said.
The Big number: 120
Player of the week:
DS Irene Kim, Battlefield, Sr.
Kim had 19 digs for the No. 7 Bobcats in a three-set win over Hylton. She had 24 digs before that in another win against Gar-Field. Battlefield will look to stay perfect on the year when it faces Forest Park on Wednesday.
Saxons win big at Richmond tournament
Langley has one of the fastest offenses in the area. Unfortunately for their opponents, the Saxons also feature an abundance of height.
“But I’m not complaining,” Coach Sue Shifflett said.
Over the long weekend at the Virginia Volleyball Showcase in Richmond, No. 4 Langley won four games, including three straight to end the tournament, to post the best record of all 28 teams in attendance.
That fast ball control matched with the Saxons’ height and net play left Shifflett impressed, she said.
Middle blocking sisters Allison and Olivia Franke hit .404 and .349, respectively, in the tournament, beneficiaries of a balanced attack that also boasts setter and Michigan State commit Elena Shklyar.
“As tall as we are, I like to run as fast as an offense as we can,” Shifflett said. “You set high outside all the time, your fans are going to get really bored.”
Allison Franke, a junior, stands 6-foot-2. Olivia, a freshman, is 6-4, and Shklyar is 6 feet. With an offense that tall — concentrated in the middle of the floor — many teams would run their attack through that triad, the likes of which are unmatched in Northern Virginia.
“We try to mix it up,” Shifflett said. “I don’t like to set the same player all the time. I like to have options.
And if we weren’t able to run something fast, we still have these tall kids that can run something else.”
Langley faces its toughest test yet when the Saxons visit defending Virginia 5A champion and No. 3 Stone Bridge on Wednesday.
The Post Top 10
Northwest swept Walter Johnson in Tuesday’s season opener. . . . Briar Woods outlasted then-No. 2 Loudoun County in a five-set thriller. . . . O’Connell, knocked off defending WCAC champ and then-No. 7 Holy Cross in four sets. . . . Victories over Calvert and Chopticon extend Northern’s winning streak to 23 matches.
1. Northwest (1-0) Last week: 1
2. Madison (6-1) LW: 4
3. Briar Woods (5-0) LW: 9
4. Stone Bridge (2-1) LW: 3
5. Langley (5-1) LW: 5
6. Loudoun County (2-1) LW: 2
7. Battlefield (7-0) LW: 8
8. Flint Hill (0-0) LW: 6
9. Northern (2-0) LW: 10
10. O’Connell (2-0) LW: NR
Dropped out: No. 7 Holy Cross (1-1)
Records through Tuesday.