All-Met Sports, The Washington Post

Volleyball notebook: Pia Michelitsch leads Washington International back atop the PVAC; Chantilly’s setters roll deep

By Jacob Bogage and Eric Goldwein

As a longtime defensive specialist and a part-time outside hitter, Pia Michelitsch has gained multiple perspectives on how to locate and exploit the holes on the volleyball court.

Washington International’s 5-foot-1 senior won’t overpower opponents, but throws them off by changing the tempo and working the angles. That’s how last season, as an outside hitter, she won Potomac Valley Athletic Conference player of the year honors.

“You know where the hard spots are, so I kind of aim for those spots,” Michelitsch said.

Now playing libero this fall, Michelitsch has continued putting her well-rounded skill-set to use. While there has been a bit of an adjustment, she said, the Red Devils are off to a 12-2 start.

“I’m in a different position and have different people to rely on,” Michelitsch said. “But I think it’s been really good for the tough games.”

Michelitch’s move to libero has freed up junior Sophie Almekinders and her sister, freshman Josephine Almekinders, at outside hitter, to give the Red Devils a balanced lineup. Out of the back row, she has provided a mix of creativity and versatility to help Washington International dominate its conference competition.

“She’s got all sorts of skills,” WIS Coach Nicholas Loewen said. “She’s just very strong athletically and technically, so she moves really well on the court.”

The Red Devils beat Georgetown Day in a five-set thriller and have dropped three-set matches to Maret and Pallotti. With reigning PVAC champion Covenant Life out of the conference this fall, WIS’s window is wide open to win its third title in four years.

“[We want to] really just play our hardest and kind of have fun with the game,” Michelitsch said. “I think that’s really important for us. As seniors, we want to really make our mark.”

After claiming the conference championship in 2013 and 2014, WIS is trying to recapture the title this fall.

The Big number: 61

Digs in the past week for St. Mary’s Ryken senior Mackenzie Loewe. The Knights face St. John’s on Friday.

Player of the week

OH Kylie Thomas, Potomac Falls, Sr.

The Virginia Tech commit broke the school record for career kills — which was 978 — in Tuesday’s loss to Stone Bridge and is approaching the 1,000 milestone.

Trio of setters gives No.8 Chantilly balance

To an extent, it never ends. Chantilly’s rotation rolls around, and another setter comes on the floor. It rolls around again and she’s replaced by an equally capable set of hands.

The No. 8 Chargers are 9-1 midway through the season and winners of three in a row after defeating Broad Run in straight sets Tuesday night.

And what sets Chantilly apart is its dynamic offense that runs three setters — the volleyball equivalent of three quarterbacks — and gives the Chargers’ offense striking balance.

“I like to use my talent,” Coach Charles Ezigbo said. “I think each one of them brings a good, different kind of dynamic to the floor.”

Senior Julia Kim had 12 assists against Broad Run. Classmate Brynn Feighery added six more. Sister Celie Feighery, a sophomore, had another three.

The trio was a bit skeptical before the season when Ezigbo said they’d each see relatively equal playing time. Most teams, especially in the hyper-competitive club volleyball scene, use a single setter, or two if a true leader doesn’t emerge.

But Ezigbo didn’t have that problem, he told the three. It’s more an embarrassment of riches. You’ll all see the floor, he told them, and if the game goes to a decisive fifth set, we’ll go with the hot hand.

Early in the season, that led to some bumpy starts, the Feighery sisters said. It was hard to get in rhythm right away with each hitter and the team looked to which setter was more dominant that day rather than playing each rotation.

Chantilly leaned on its defense, Ezigbo’s calling card.

Now 10 games into the year, the offense has caught up. Nine players recorded kills against Broad Run, balance attributable to the different court vision of each setter.

“Sometimes we got a bit of a rocky start, but these are rotations we always go through,” Brynn Feighery said. “It’s a rhythm we’ve gotten into the past couple of games.”

The Chargers face Herndon on Wednesday for a chance to extend their winning streak, then No. 10 Oakton next Thursday.

The Post Top 10

Northwest swept Einstein and has yet to drop a set. . . . Langley defeated then-No. 6 Yorktown 3-1 on Tuesday to preserve a 12-game winning streak. . . . Flint Hill beat St. Andrew’s in three sets on Tuesday. . . . Middleburg Academy swept Dominion and Islamic Saudi Academy. . . . O’Connell beat Holy Cross Friday in a five-set thriller. . . . Oakton re-enters the rankings riding a seven-match win streak.

  1. Northwest (6-0) Last week: 1

  2. Briar Woods (11-0) LW: 2

  3. Langley (15-1) LW: 3

  4. Loudoun County (10-1) LW: 4

  5. Northern (12-0) LW: 5

  6. Flint Hill (12-2) LW: 7

  7. Middleburg (21-2) LW: 8

  8. Chantilly (9-1) LW: 9

  9. O’Connell (22-2) LW: NR

  10. Oakton (14-3) LW: NR

Dropped out: No. 6 Yorktown (17-2), No. 10 Holy Cross (13-3)

Bubble: Yorktown, Stone Bridge (14-5), Howard (10-2)

Records through Tuesday.

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