It has been a few years, but the Langley Saxons will play in another state-championship match and hope to win their third such volleyball crown.
Langley (26-3) advanced to this season’s Virginia High School League Class 6 girls state-tournament final with a super-close 3-2 home semifinal victory over the Colonial Forge Eagles (21-7) the night of Nov. 14. Langley won 17-15 in the deciding fifth set.
The Saxons face the Battlefield Bobcats in the Nov. 17, 4:15 p.m. championship match at the Siegel Center in Richmond. Langley’s other two state titles came in 2013 and 2017, the last time the Saxons reached a state final. The team also has finished second in the state two times, in 2007 and 2015.
The state semifinal was close throughout, as four of the five sets went to extra points, with the Saxons rallying multiple times throughout the match.
Langley won the opening set, 26-24, lost the next two 33-31 and 26-24, then won the final two 25-18 and 17-15. The Saxons fought off a match point in the final set when Colonial Forge led 14-13.
In the first set, Langley rallied from a 22-19 deficit to win. The Saxons trailed 19-15 in the second set but battled back multiple times, before falling 33-31.
“I have been coaching forever and I don’t remember having that close of a match before,” Langley coach Susan Shifflett said. “I have to say, our players followed our game plan to a T, we made good defensive adjustments and we were definitely helped by some of their unforced errors.”
Leading the way for Langley in the state semifinal were all-region players Chloe Hokenson, Ana Toumazatos, Amber Smith, Riley Buddie and Leni Stanton-Parker.
A few days earlier, host Langley had a 2-0 lead over the Madison Warhawks in the 6D North Region tournament final, before tiring and losing 3-2, but still advanced to the state tourney.
Shifflett said the Saxons maintained their late-match energy and emotion against Colonial Forge in another five-setter.
“We probably learned something from that loss,” Shifflett said.
In a first-round state-tourney match on Nov. 11, Langley defeated host Deep Run, 3-0, in Glen Allen, winning 25-22, 25-20, 26-24.
The night of Nov. 14, Madison (25-4) lost in this season’s state semifinals to visiting Battlefield, 3-1, ending the Warhawks’ season. Madison won the first set 25-23, then lost the next three 25-23, 25-19, 28-26. Madison hosted and defeated Cosby, 3-0, in a first-round state match, 25-16, 25-8, 25-12 on Nov. 11.
Madison was playing in the state tournament for the first time since winning its one title in 2015. The Warhawks were second in 2014.
NOTE: With its two state titles, two seconds and multiple other appearances in the state tourney, Langley has been the most accomplished team from the northern region in the history of the VHSL volleyball competition. The Langley program became a varsity sport in 1999, and 2023 region Coach of the Year Shifflett continues as the Saxons’ only head coach. Langley’s state-tourney victory over Deep Run gave Shifflett 500 career wins . . . Last season, Langley was 0-1 in the state tournament, losing to champion Alexandria City, 3-1, in the first round.