Titans volleyball takes down Kellam to capture their first state championship
When Kellam High School’s volleyball Coach Janice Johnson walked into The Garden for the first time, it was clear that this game was going to be different than any previous game the Titan girls volleyball team played before. Johnson had state championship rings covering her fingers; Kellam has been a volleyball powerhouse in the Virginia High School League for many years. This could have easily intimidated the T.C. players, but the then 16-0 Titans had proven time and time again that they could play against any team.
When the state championship game started, Kellam’s experience in these big moments was obvious as they got off to a very fast start. Point after point went to the Knights until the Titans settled in. Despite Kellam having an early point advantage, the Titans were able to go on a 7-0 run at the end of the set to tie it 23-23 before Kellam scored two straight to close out the set. The first set was monumental for the Titans however—while the end result was a loss, it proved that they were worthy competition for the Knights.
Junior libero Lila Randall said, “When we were down, we all knew we could trust each other to put the ball away and to get back into the game. We had so much energy after each point they couldn’t handle it.”
Energy is something that the Titans had never lacked throughout the whole season. While the main players on the team are all underclassmen, the senior leadership provided from the bench was a huge contributing factor to the Titans undefeated season.
Senior co-captain Evie Ankele said, “It feels surreal. I am so proud to just be a part of this team. We went from not thinking we would even have a season to winning states. I couldn’t have asked for a better team of girls to spend my last season with and a better game to end on.”
That leadership was key with the second set. The second set in volleyball is often the one that sets the tone, and this one was no different. Despite being down in the middle of the set, the Titans showed that they were definitely not going to back down from a challenge. They went on a run to end the set and finished it 25-19.
The third set went Kellam’s way. After the comeback in the 2nd, the Titans came out flat and the Knights attacked and won the 3rd set 25-18. The Kellam hitters were striking with quickness and power and the Titans needed to adjust to deal with it.
The Titans, with their back to the wall came out firing against the Knights in the 4th set. Milan Rex put on an incredible performance, T.C. quickly jumped out to a 15-5 lead. Kellam would offer a little bit of resistance, but the Titans dominated to close the set 25-19.
It was back to 0-0, whoever got to 15 first was going to be the VHSL 6A State Champions. The teams were trading points, all the way up until it was 15-15 (in volleyball you have to win by two). The Titans got a quick point to make it 16-15. Then, after a couple beautiful defensive plays, sophomore setter Chloe Wilmot hit the ball with amazing touch right in the weakness of the defense to win the Titans’ first ever VHSL State Championship.
Wilmot said, “Getting the game winning point was definitely crazy. I wasn’t expecting it to happen and when it did I was shocked. It was almost like a wave of relief that all your hard work through the season paid off by winning states.
The entire bench stormed the court and the limited number of parents and fans rushed to celebrate with the ones they loved. Senior co-captain Samantha Sorto said, “It felt amazing! I feel so proud to be a co-captain of this team and everyone has worked so incredibly hard in order to get to this position. I have played alongside these girls for the past four years and I will miss them so much next year.”
While this was a historic year, the Titans are definitely not done yet. The entire lineup for the State Championship team, including the Occoquan Region Coach of the Year AJ DeSain, will be back making the Titans presumptive favorites to hang up a second State Championship banner.