By David Wagner
The Western Albemarle volleyball team has been impressive in 2016. A record of 22-3 overall, 12-2 in the Jefferson District (second place) has the Warriors poised for a post-season run.
It started on Halloween night at Western Albemarle as the Warriors defeated Monticello in the quarterfinals of the Conference 29 tournament. Western won in straight sets 25-9, 25-20 and 25-15. Senior outside hitter Alema Atuaia led the way for the Warriors with 12 kills, 8 digs and 3 aces. Senior middle blocker Courtney Berry added 9 kills, senior outside hitter Olivia Nichols tallied 9 kills and 7 digs, senior right side hitter Adriana Bland had 7 digs and senior setter Andrea Vial amassed 34 assists in just three sets.
The win advanced the Warriors to the conference semi-finals, where they will face the Spotswood Trailblazers. Western defeated Spotswood 2-1 in an early season tournament at Fluvanna.
Along with the Spotswood win, the Warriors notched a number of significant non-district wins during the season. They also defeated R. E. Lee (2-1) and Broadway (2-0) at the Fluvanna tournament. Then at the Albemarle tournament, Western beat North Stafford (2-1), Atlee (2-1) and Brooke Point (2-1) before falling to Stone Bridge (1-2) in the championship match. Their only other losses of the season came at the hands of Jefferson District foe Powhatan (1-3) and (2-3). Western also nabbed two big victories in district play over Albemarle (3-0) and (3-2). Other than the Powhatan losses, the Warriors dropped only three sets during the entire season in district play, the two versus Albemarle and one more in a 3-1 win over Fluvanna. They won 10 of their 14 district matches in straight sets (3-0) and won 39 of 45 in the 14 matches. The conference semi-final match versus Spotswood was too late for this edition.
Seniors Atuaia, Berry, Nichols, Bland and Vial have put up big numbers over the course of the season. Middle blocker Berry has been dominant at the net all year long. She led the team in kills (242), points (133) and blocks (39). Her strong play at the net will be key for the Warriors moving in the playoffs. Outside hitter Atuaia has been a pleasant surprise for Western Albemarle this year. A transfer student, Atuaia has given the Warriors great all-around effort. Being tied for second on the team in both kills (143) and digs (139) is a huge bonus. She also ranked first in aces (36) and third in points (126).
Outside hitter Nichols has continued her solid play with 143 kills (second), 136 digs (third), 16 blocks (third) and 89 points (fifth). Setter Vial leads the team in assists with 481 and has 88 points from the service line. Vial has made life at the net much easier for the hitters with consistent play and Bland been outstanding for the Warriors defensively and at the service line. Bland led the team in digs with 197 and was second in points (127) and aces (29). Her passing and hustle contributed to Vial’s success at setter, creating more and better chances.
Juniors Cassidy Wilson (middle blocker) and Hailey McDaniel (right side hitter) were impact players as well. Wilson was second on the team with 17 solo blocks and fourth with 108 kills. Her solid play has complimented Berry in the middle and gives the Warriors depth. McDaniel has done the same at right side, scoring 105 points from the service line (fourth on the team) and tallying 55 kills (fifth) on the season. Their effort off the bench gives Head Coach Ron Pack flexibility in substitutions. This talented, senior-laden team has the leadership and experience to make a deep run into the playoffs. The potential is there, now it’s time to see what happens.