In 24 seasons as head girls volleyball coach at Fredericksburg Christian, Jeff Shaeffer has never guided the Eagles to an unbeaten season. Following Friday’s 3–0 victory over visiting Carmel School of Ruther Glen, the Eagles are four wins shy from achieving that feat.
“We all just wanted to win and play our best,” said junior outside hitter Morgan Griffis, who finished with a match-high 16 kills to go along with 10 digs. “Without the starters [Paige and Madi Bachman and Syndey Whittaker], it was a little difficult to get motivated, but we definitely brought it together. ... I just wanted to dominate today. I had that drive.”
Shaeffer credited his team’s overall depth as the Eagles (11–0) overcame the absence of the Bachman sisters to compete in a softball tournament in Georgia as well as Whittaker sidelined after being injured in a car accident earlier in the day. Whittaker, a junior, suffered only minor injuries and watched her teammates prevail from the FCS bench. Madison Kamphuir and Mckinley LeDuc, who split time between the varsity and JV this fall, helped fill the gap.
Nineteen aces, including four first-game aces by sophomore Cassie Miller, sparked the Eagles’ set sweep by scores of 25–13, 25–16, 25–20. With the score tied 19–19 in the third game, junior Taylor Thomas gave FCS a needed boost with four straight service aces.
“No letdown—focus on what we had to do: play hard defense and serve hard. [Do that] and we had a chance to win,” said Shaeffer, who guided the Eagles to the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association’s state championship matches in 2013 and 2018. “The girls played well and found the spots.”
Thomas totaled eight aces to go with 14 digs, Erin Wardlaw chipped in with eight kills and Emma Shaeffer had a match-high 29 assists.
“It was a challenge. The first time we had done this rotation, but adopted really well,” said Shaeffer, a varsity member for five seasons and who is expected to play at Lancaster (Pa.) Bible College next season. About her sets strategy, she added: “It really depends on where the ball is passed first. I try not to go to the same person too many times; get their blockers a little off-balanced.”
The Wildcats (2–5) played well in spurts, but their overall youth and inexperience proved costly. Over half of the team consists of sophomores, freshmen and eighth graders. Against FCS, Samantha Senfield had a team-best eight kills, while sophomore Anna Gregorio contributed four kills.
“[We’re] trying to build a culture and a program,” first-year coach Robert Kocher said. “Started to feel more comfortable. Our passing was better. Once our passing is good, we can get into our system. We have some hitters on the team.” With roughly 30 players divided between two high school and two middle school teams, the future appears bright for Carmel.
FCS entertains Pope John Paul the Great on senior night on Monday. Carmel entertains Trinity Episcopal next Friday. Kocher indicated the Wildcats hope to schedule additional matches later this month.
Maintaining complete focus during the pandemic-interrupted season, is not easy, Emma Shaeffer admitted.
“There are no championships, so it is difficult to stay motivated,” she said. “But I think our girls are doing a really good job performing in practice and when we get into games, we really got into it.”
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