When the high school girls volleyball season resumed Monday, The Gazette’s five ranked teams combined for a 48-1 record. Four of the teams — all public school programs — were undefeated (8-0) and the second-ranked Academy of the Holy Cross had just one loss.
Two-time defending Class 4A state champion Sherwood High School occupied the top spot with Damascus, Col. Zadok Magruder and Walter Johnson also ranked.
The county, meanwhile, has a legitimate chance to send three representatives to Ritchie Coliseum on the University of Maryland College Park campus in November for the state tournament.
“This is definitely a real strong year for the county. I thought that going into the season and nothing has changed,” said veteran Magruder coach Scott Zanni, whose team plays Damascus today. “The senior class [throughout the county] is very talented and you have a number of kids going to play in [Division I or II] colleges next year. … You also have several kids going to play Division III. …
“I think you have to go back to 2003 with [Springbrook graduate and former Manhattan College player] Sherryta Stokes and [Magruder and Naval Academy] Rachel Dougherty to see this type of [individual and team] talent spread throughout the county.”
This fall, several players, including Sherwood’s Alex Holston (University of Florida), Holy Cross’ Taylor Gallart (University of Central Florida) and Walter Johnson’s Kristen Larrick (William and Mary) and Stephanie Paul (William and Mary) are scheduled to play for Division I colleges next fall. Damascus’ Autumn Jenkins is also committed to the University of Delaware and Magruder’s Jen Gruber plans to attend Division II Edinboro (Pa.) University, according to Zanni.
“I really do think this is a great year for volleyball in the county and there are a lot of quality teams,” longtime Wildcats coach Bill Morris said. “It is not just the [undefeated teams]. Wootton, Northwest, Richard Montgomery and Poolesville are all good. We struggled with [Bethesda-Chevy Chase].
“The county’s senior class is fantastic. You don’t only have the girls everyone knows, but the senior middles at B-CC [Ashley McRae] and Northwest [the injured Amy Wang], all of Richard Montgomery and so many other girls are just great volleyball players.”
The proliferation of local talent can be attributed to the increase of club volleyball opportunities and resources, according to Sherwood coach Brian McCarty.
“There are two reasons,” he said. “First, I think the influx of club volleyball becoming more popular is huge. The girls have more options like MVSA, Metro American or Champions to play year round. A little more locally, there is also the Bonnie Gilchrist-Scott Zanni Summer Volleyball Camp, which is big for our community getting involved in volleyball.
“Secondly, I think kids are starting at a younger age and many more girls that play another sport, are giving volleyball a try.”
Holy Cross has emerged as the prohibitive favorite to win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference this year while Sherwood is the favorite to win the Class 4A North Region for the third consecutive year. If the Warriors advance to the state tournament, they will play the Class 4A West Region champion, a guaranteed Montgomery County team. Damascus, which has qualified for the state tournament four times, is also a prime contender in the 3A West Region.
“It would be a pretty fair bet for the county to get three teams playing at Ritchie,” Morris said. “We all assume Sherwood will get there and are pretty sure Damascus can. Poolesville has historically been good in 2A or 1A as well. The other 4A spot, which will definitely be someone from here, is up for grabs.”
Added McCarty: ”We always want to see our fellow Montgomery County teams be successful as long as doesn’t interfere with our goals. We will be rooting for them and taking pride in our area.”
How they rank
1. Sherwood, 8-0
2. Academy of the Holy Cross, 16-1
3. Damascus, 8-0
4. Col. Zadok Magruder, 8-0
5. Walter Johnson, 8-0
Damascus at Col. Zadok Magruder, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Walter Johnson at Thomas S. Wootton, 6 p.m. Monday