“Rebuilding is ahead of schedule”

Battlefield Volleyball’s promising start to the season

Photo courtesy of Mason Kerr

Photo courtesy of Mason Kerr

Mason Kerr, Author

With fall sports underway, Battlefield Volleyball has picked up right where it left off last year, which resulted in a 15-6 record, district championship and region semifinal appearance. This season, Coach Abby Mills’ team, despite this year being perceived as a rebuild, has continued its success and is looking to make another postseason appearance. 

After losing only four seniors to graduation, most of the team’s core group has returned. However, the losses of District Player of the Year Hillarie Adams and second team All-District setter Olivia Clarke left holes in the starting lineup. Fortunately, those holes have been filled by girls with a lot of experience at their respective positions. Aava Shingler, who was second on the team in sets behind Clarke with 37.1 per game in 2021, has already established herself as a more than capable replacement, racking up 146 assists on 442 sets this season. 

Adams’ place on the team is being filled by multiple players. Her front row position has been taken over by junior Brianna Clay, who earned All-District (first team) and All-Region (second team) honors at middle last year and an All-District honorable mention two years ago. At outside hitter and defensive specialist on the back line, Grace Bianchi has already surpassed her average of 9.2 hit attempts per match to 23.8 per match so far this season. 

In their first three weeks of competition, mostly against opponents outside of the Cedar Run district, the Bobcats have gone 6-2 (as of 9/12), with 5-set victories over Riverside and Gainesville, with their only losses coming against powerhouses Riverside and Oakton. The team has been led by Clay, Bianchi, Shingler, and senior libero Jaelle Hinkle, who is currently averaging 10.5 digs per set, followed closely behind by Taelin Connolley, who has stepped up as DS and OH after a strong 2021 campaign. 

Also growing into larger roles are Katherine Brown, who has played almost every position so far this year, right side hitter Emily Dunn, and junior setter Melorra Arthur. Arthur’s sister, Merom, was a part of the Covid-affected 2020 region semifinalist team, earning first team All-District honors in a shortened season. 

The rest of the district, and even the rest of the region, has circled Battlefield on their calendars, for the Bobcats proved that they were a tough team to beat, defeating the newly added Freedom (South Riding) Eagles in the district final after previously losing two of three matchups against a powerhouse FSR team. 

Freedom looks poised to challenge BHS again this year, along with the defending state champions in the Colgan Sharks, who defeated the Bobcats in the region semifinals last year. “Colgan graduated four seniors from that state championship team, but three all-state selections return in junior libero Paula Sigurani, senior setter Alexis Scipione, and powerful senior middle hitter Brielle Kemavor, the Class 6 Player of the Year who’s committed collegiately to Brigham Young University,” states the Prince William Times’ in its high school volleyball preview. 

The PW Times also lists Forest Park as a possible contender in Region 6B, claiming, “If there’s a team in the Cardinal District poised to challenge Colgan’s spot at the top, it could be Forest Park. Coming off an 18-9 season and a run to the region semifinals, the Bruins are experienced, deep, and tested.” 

The Sharks and Bruins will come out of their district as region title hopefuls, and both have enough playoff experience and talent to stand in the way of the Bobcats. 

Finally, as always, crosstown rival Patriot has its sights on the district title. The Pioneers won 4 sets in three games against the Bobcats in 2021, and always offer a solid test late in the season. This year, they’ve opened the season relatively slower than the other top teams in the region (PW Times), but they always give the Bobcats a hard-fought game late in the season. 

If Coach Mills’ team can continue to improve as the season progresses, like it did last year, the Bobcats should be able to build on their current success as they enter their district schedule and use that momentum to make another postseason run.