The W.T. Woodson High School varsity volleyball team (10-1) has jumped out of the gate to a tremendous run in the 2011 season, not yet halfway through.
The Cavaliers have dominated their opposition, sweeping seven of the 10 teams they have faced. Woodson finished third in the Cassel Invitational after defeating South County on Sept. 3 and lost only one of its five matches. Woodson also has an undefeated record outside of tournament play, at 6-0. If this authoritative performance continues, it is difficult to see anyone else taking control of the Northern Region this season.
Jorden Jackson and Rachel Conway, the only two returning seniors on the squad, have led the squad.
"I would probably say Jorden is the top middle in the Northern region right now, and Rachel is one of the two best setters in the Northern region," Woodson head coach Len Palaschak said. "Both have already verbally committed to colleges: Jorden to Long Island University and Rachel to Christopher Newport University."
The Cavaliers were tested in a tight match against Madison this past week. The Warhawks jumped out early to win the first set, leaving Woodson in the hole. But the Cavs bounced back quickly to win three straight sets to claim victory.
"Madison came out and was scrappy and it frustrated our players," Palaschak said. "What was nice to see after losing the first set was we came back. You've got to prove you want to be on top and they came out and played better."
Even with all of the Cavaliers' overriding talent this year, Palaschak does not believe it will be an easy task for any team in the Patriot to win the region, let alone the district. Now in his seventh year at the helm, Palaschak said the region is filled with talent.
"It's nice to see the whole Northern region as a whole — our volleyball is getting so much better and it's due to the quality of coaches we have across the board," Palaschak said. "Also we have a lot of players from Junior Olympic club or recreation leagues to allow the girls to get extra touches on the ball, which is great for the sport."
Woodson has benefited from the Fairfax County club leagues with a team spilling over with experienced athletes who began playing the sport as kids. His roster consists of three seniors, six juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen — one of the most well balanced line-ups in the region.
"We knew we had some good players coming back, but we were a little worried because we lost our defensive players last year," the coach said. "For years these girls had just shined back there so we had to fill that void."
Fortunately junior Ally Landers, sophomore Kaelin Jennison and freshman Mackenzie Reed have eliminated that void for good. Palaschak said he was surprised how well the youngsters have played in the back row this early in the season.
"This is a team that personality-wise gets along so well together," he said. "Even if we were losing, this is the type of team you enjoy coaching. They have great camaraderie and their play indicates that."
The Patriot District has talent in almost every sport. The coach said the added pressure with only one loss is good for his team because it tests the character of his players.
"It's good or the players to be put in this position because this is when you find out the character of the team. There's no doubt in my mind we have a very good team this year," Palaschak said. "The chemistry is amazing and you always hope for the best for them, but there's always somebody better around the corner than you."
Woodson plays at 9 a.m. at Langley in the "Dig Pink Tournament" on Sept. 24.