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Langley wins a third state volleyball championship

Saxons lost first set, then won the next three in title match
The Langley Saxons gather with the state chamlpionship trophy, bracket sheet and their medals after winningn a third such title.

A season with bookend road victories in big gyms concluded with a third state championship for the Langley Saxons.

Langley (27-3) won the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 girls state volleyball crown by defeating the Battlefield Bobcats, 3-1, in the Nov. 17 title match at the Siegel Center in Richmond.

After losing the first set, 26-24, the Saxons won the next three, 25-16, 25-17, 25-15, and finished 3-0 overall lin the state tourney.

“We knew we had the potential and skill level to get to the state finals, and getting to the state tournament was a goal,” Langley coach Susan Shifflett said. “Back in September I was not sure if we had the mental fortitude to win the state, but our players proved me wrong.”

By far, Langley has been the most accomplished Northern Virginia team in state competition since volleyball became a varsity sport in this area back in 1999. Langley’s other two state titles came in 2013 and 2017. The team also has finished second in the state twice, in 2007 and 2015, and has qualified for the state in other years.

No other team from this region has played in more than two state finals, with the Saxons’ three state crowns now the most of any team from Northern Virginia.

The 2023 season began for Langley with a somewhat sloppy 3-0 road victory over the host Lake Braddock Bruins in a big gym, followed by a home win over defending state champion Alexandria City. Those victories, though, provided momentum for what became a championship campaign.

Langley also won the Liberty District tournament championship this fall, and finished second to the Madison Warhawks in the 6D North Region tourney.

In this season’s state final, Langley struggled early in the first set, falling behind 9-3. After a timeout, the Saxons started playing better and continued doing so, even though they lost the first set.

“We settled them after some early jitters during the timeout,” Shifflett said. “This match was the best we passed all season and that opened things up. “We remained very even keeled, stayed calm, took care of business and we finished our points. I thought we were very prepared well for the match and everything that happens, because we had been there before.”

Langley built a 5-0 lead in the second set, pulled away after the score was tied at 13 in the third, then took control in the fourth with an early 8-1 run.

Chloe Hokenson, the 6D North Region Player of the Year, had a strong state final with 15 kills for Langley and some service aces.

“Chloe had a fantastic match,” Shifflett said.

Langley’s Ana Toumazatos had 16 kills, Leni Stanton-Parker added 14 and Ava Barnett, Amber Smith, Amajion Eligwe and Riley Buddie had kills. Claire Mo also had kills and aces.

Langley advanced to the state 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. 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,” said Shifflett, the only coach in the history of the Saxons program. “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 Hokenson, Toumazatos, Smith, Buddie and Stanton-Parker.

A few days earlier, host Langley had a 2-0 lead over Madison in the region tournament final, before tiring and losing 3-2, but still advanced to the state.

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 to Madison,” 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.

NOTES: 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.