The expected is just the beginning. The unexpected is what changes lives. The Patrick Henry boys’ volleyball team has experienced both over the past two years.
Last year, it came as a surprise as Patrick Henry won its first state title in any sport in 24 years, with the Patriots 3-2 win over Princess Anne in the 5A championship game.
This year, with the school’s drop into 4A, and the majority of the roster returning, it was expected.
On both occasions, Patrick Henry did not disappoint.
However, this year the Patriots dominated from beginning to end. In fact, according to Patrick Henry coach Michael Townsend, the team lost only six or seven games all season.
Therefore, the Boys 4 Final was more of coronation than a celebration.
Led by an ultra-talented senior class that includes team captains Connor Logan and Luke Puckett, along with Adam Lane Freddie Schools, Owen Shea, Chris Kenner and Josh Sheppard, Patrick Henry disposed of Midlothian, 3-0, for the third time this season to hoist their second championship trophy.
“It was a fun ride,” Townsend explained. “I am so proud of these guys and now that we won’t be practicing my evenings are going to be a little lonelier.
“But this team has been relentless all year. Hats off to Midlo for being such a tough opponent, much like our battles with Atlee last year, but we always did what we had to do to win.”
Townsend echoed the sentiment that the Patriots have dominated the last six weeks of the season.
“This is a group of guys who not only love to play volleyball, they love each other and most of them have been playing together for the past five years.”
Logan, who recorded eight digs from his libero position, spoke to the closeness this team felt for one another.
“It is not only about how great everyone on the team is as a player,” Logan said. “But each one of them are great individuals. Over the years, we have molded together as one.”
The Patriots did show a few jitters and fell behind 3-1 early as Midlothian’s Adam Wajciechowski had a couple of nice kills. But the team from Ashland settled in and tied the game twice before seizing control at 13-10 and closing the game out 25-21 on four straight kills by Jaxon Delgado (twice) and CW McIlhenny. In fact, the junior outside hitter McIlhenny closed it out with the cross-court kill from the left side.
Patrick Henry, the 2016 5A champions, started to impose its will in Game 2 when senior Adam Lane made a terrific block at the net to put the Patriots up 8-4 but kicked up the intensity level a notch.
“I don’t have many blocks, so when I do I get excited,” Lane stated. “So, when I turned around to the team they got excited also.”
Lane, who finished with a game-high 30 assists, is the floor leader for the Patriots.
“I will cherish all these moments with these guys,” Lane added. “But my job is as a setter and it is easy to do when you have guys like CW, Luke and Jaxon to feed. I wouldn’t be the player I am if it wasn’t for these guys. So props to them for make me a better player.
Then, they added to that on kills by Delgado and Luke Puckett to increase the lead to 23-16. However, Midlothian called a timeout and went on a 5-0 run to cut deficit to 23-21 and forced the Patriots to call time out. Patrick Henry closed out the game, 25-23, on a net fault violation.
Patrick Henry stuck to business as usual in Game 3 and opened an 18-12 lead behind a good team effort. Midlothian made a brief run but the Patriots got the demonstrative kill by Delgado and Puckett to make it 23-18 and closed the game out and sealed the school’s second title two points later at 25-18.
It took the Patriots just one hour, to not only end the season with a 26-1 record, but secure the school’s third state title in school history. The other was football in 1994.
McIlhenny finished with a team-high 14 kills while Carrano and Delgado had eight kills apiece. Puckett added a team-high nine digs.
With the loss, Midlothian finished its season with a 20-6 mark (three of those losses to Patrick Henry). Wajciechowski paced the Trojans with 16 kills while Sammy Varela added 26 assists while senior Tyler finished his career with seven kills, four assists and four blocks.
The good news for Patrick Henry, is a program has been built by Townsend, who was a standout volleyball player for the Patriots also, and returning junior players Carrano, Delgado, McIlhenny and Ronny Maier, along with sophomores Link Hammerschmidt, Ethan Stiles, Cal Inge and Hayden Lane who will make it possible for a return trip to the state playoffs next year.