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Washington & Lee Eagles open strong for now

David Wilkerson
The Journal

Micheal Breunig, head coach of the Washington and Lee varsity girls volleyball team has seen this script before. After all, entering his third year at the helm, he is the longest serving coach in his position in at least the last 15 years.
“Recently, we seem to do fine in the early season matches against non-district opponents, then we struggle a bit with the other district teams,” he said, in his typical understated fashion.


The Lady Eagles are 5-2 with both losses coming in 3-1 matches to Middlesex, who many see as the team to beat in Region A this year. They’ve had no trouble with AA foes King George and James Monroe and even dispatched private school foe St. Margarets. But if the past is prologue, the Northern Neck District will prove tough.
The volleyball banner in the gymnasium has but one entry, a district title in 1990. The 2007 team won a district tournament game to slip into a first round regional playoff game after finishing fourth in the district, but other than those two blips on the radar, for decades, Eagle volleyball has been at a disadvantage in what has often been one of the tougher districts in the state.
“This could be the year that changes,” Breunig said. “We’ve got great leadership from our three senior captains, good skills from our younger girls, plenty of continuity from the last few years, and I love our team chemistry, which has been lacking in recent years.”
Drama has, on occasion, plagued the volleyball club in Montross, but this year’s squad appears focused, ambitious, and genuinely confident that they can make a splash in the district and beyond.
“We played Middlesex tough,” said senior co-captain Samantha Jones, who has been involved with W&L volleyball since eighth grade.
“Even tougher the second time around,” added her coach.
Many of the other district schools have middle school programs if not elementary school opportunities to play. In Westmoreland County, the only exposure to volleyball prior to JV in the eighth grade is PE class.
“It’s a major disadvantage to be forced to teach the most basic aspects of the game to our girls who are ultimately going to be playing against teams filled with athletes who have been playing competitively since they were little,” said Whitney Thompson, first year JV coach and a transplant from Northumberland.
To combat the obvious inequity in experience, Coach Breunig invited the VCU women’s volleyball team over the summer to facilitate a camp for his girls and he points out that it paid immediate and obvious dividends.
“First off, we got the girls playing a lot during the summer and, secondly, they got to see what the game looks like played at a very high level and learn from those exceptional athletes.”
Will it be enough to defeat the Essexes and Lancasters of the world? We’ll have to wait and see, but clearly, the team and their coaches believe that this could be the year that they rewrite the script as a feel good story about an underdog that found its way to the winners circle through hard work and good attitudes, which would be a novel theme in this case.

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