In a 12-team tournament that featured five local products, Liberty Christian placed first at the Mustang Invitational. The Bulldogs went undefeated in three best of five matches followed by two best of three straight set wins over Page County and Kettle Run to add this trophy to a case that includes last years Albemarle Invitational.
Monticello, St. Anne’s-Belfield, William Monroe, Orange County and Charlottesville all participated in the event.
The host Mustangs had not played in a single match before the tournament, and finished with a 4-1 record to take fifth place overall and first place in the tournament’s Black Division. In the round robin portion of the event, Monticello went 2-1 and just missed placing fourth and earning a spot as the fourth place Gold Division team where they would have lined up against LCA. Instead, the Mustangs took down Waynesboro and St. Anne’s in straight sets to finish up their day.
“We got some really good playing time for a lot of kids,” said Mustangs coach John Mitchem. “It’s great to able to jump start our season like this.”
Three Monticello players were named to the All-Black Division squad including Charlotte Devine, Britanny Scott and Mariah Williams. The Mustangs graduated first team All-Jefferson District standout Kate Geldmacher, but returns the bulk of its roster from last year, setting solid expecations for Mitchem’s squad as they approach district play.
“I was really surpised by our serve-receive, that was probably the best thing for us today,” Mitchem said. “I thought we were in system a great deal of time. We’ll work on some of our hitting errors and so forth, but to be able to be in system for so much of the time is really going to help make our offense run.”
STAB, the only local private school in the event, placed sixth on the day with a 2-3 record. The Saints shook off a shaky start with a loss against Orange County to finish strong and take the second best seed in the Black Division.
In their semifinal game before facing Monticello, the Saints edged Stuarts Draft in a hard fought three set match. Junior Allie Nicholson was named to the All-Black Division team.
“We saw a lot today,” said St. Anne’s coach Stacey Gearhart. “There was a lot of good stuff, a lot that still needs work. We’re lucky to have been here today because it gives us a spring board for what we need to work on all week before our first conference match in our fall family picnic against Trinity. There’s no better practice.”
With a number of key returning players and a major addition in Nicholson who transferred from Western Albemarle, Gearhart is excited about her team’s prospects, especially if it can iron out some wrinkles.
“We’ve got awesome hitters right now,” Gearhart said. “But unless we can get that first pass to (setter) Nikkita Briones they aren’t going to be able to hit the way we’d like them to, those full arm swings. So we’ve got to get those passes and just overall cohesion and communication.”
Orange went 2-3 on the day as well to place 10th after falling to Amherst. In addition to beating STAB in the round robin portion of the event, the Hornets took down Charlottesville in straight sets to set up their game with Amherst.
William Monroe and Charlottesville each had a tough day, with neither taking a match and finishing 11th and 12th respectively.