It was no surprise that the Flint Hill Huskies and Bishop O’Connell Knights met in this season’s Division I private school girls state volleyball tournament championship match.
It was a showdown waiting to occur for many reasons. Each high-school team was having an outstanding campaign with 30-plus victories apiece, the two had met in previous state finals – each winning titles – and the squads were the top two state seeds this fall.
They had split two matches earlier this season, each had won preceding conference tournaments just days prior to the start of the state competition, were dominating other opponents and had long winning streaks entering the state tourney – 15 for O’Connell and 20 for Flint Hill.
So it also wasn’t going to be a shocker when either became the champion, which was top seed Flint Hill (32) by a 3-0 score Nov. 13 over No. 2 seed O’Connell (32-4) at The Steward School near Richmond.
The state crown was Flint Hill’s 11th overall and fourth in a row.
Flint Hill was 3-0 in the state tourney, downing Norfolk Collegiate, 3-0, in the first round, then St. Catherine’s, 3-0, in the semifinals.
Prior to the state tournament, the Huskies finished 3-0 to win the Independent School League’s AA tourney for a 10th time. Flint Hill downed Georgetown Day, 3-0, in the title match, and won its first matches by 3-0 scores, as well.
Among top players for Flint Hill this season were Macaria Spears, Isabelle Bardin, Jacquelin Bardin, Rachel Larsen, Mickhaila Murray, Sonja Meyer, Natalie Nguyen, Alexandra Carbonara, Ryla Jones and Renee Jones.
In the state finals, Spears and Renee Jones led the way with multiple kills, with Ryla Jones and Bardin having kills as well. Larsen led in digs and assists.
The Huskies were in control from the start, winning the first set 25-14, the second 25-21 after having a big 13-5 lead, then won the final 25-18.
O’Connell last won a state title in 2016, defeating Flint Hill in the title match. The Knights also won a state crown in 2006.
Prior to the state tournament, O’Connell won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tourney with a 3-0 mark, defeating Holy Cross, 3-0, in the title match. O’Connell’s other tournament victories were over St. John’s in the semifinals and Carroll in the quarterfinals, each by 3-0 scores.
The WCAC title was the Knights’ first since 1995.
In the title match against Holy Cross, Riley Debiec had 12 kills for O’Connell to go with five digs and Erin Debiec had 28 assists, nine digs and two aces. Also, Anna Drahozal added 11 kills, eight digs, two aces and a block; Madison Bowser had seven kills and two blocks; Grace Maria had five kills, 10 digs and two aces; Claire Harris had three kills and two aces and Adriana Aquino had 11 digs. In the semifinal win over St. John’s for O’Connell, Riley Debiec had 18 kills and Drahozal 10, and Erin Debiec had 37 assists.
Drahozal was the WCAC’s co-Player of the Year and made first-team all-league along with Riley Debiec and Erin Debiec. Maria made second team and Bowser and Harris honorable mention.
In the state tournament, O’Connell blanked Catholic High School, 3-0, in the quarterfinals, topped Norfolk Academy, 3-0, in the semifinals, then fell to Flint Hill in the final. Drahozal had 12 kills and 18 digs in the semifinal, Erin Debiec had 37 assists and Riley Debiec had 11 kills with 15 digs and two aces.