In January, T.C. Williams Coach A.J. DeSain thought there was no chance his Titans would even have a volleyball season.
Three months later, in the school’s gymnasium in Alexandria, the Titans celebrated a 25-18, 25-14, 25-22 win over Langley on Tuesday in the Virginia Class 6 semifinals.
“It hasn’t sunken in yet that we are here,” DeSain said. “We have been working hard for so long, and it’s tremendous to see them perform at this level and have this opportunity to go to the state finals.”
T.C. Williams (16-0) advanced to the first state championship game in program history, which it will host Friday or Saturday. The road to this point, however, has been DeSain’s most challenging in his six years with the Titans, he said.
T.C. Williams had its first three games either canceled or rescheduled because of opponents having coronavirus-related issues, and the Titans dealt with players consistently missing games or practices because of commitments with their club volleyball teams. Because of the pandemic, the fall high school sports season was moved back several months.
“Traditionally this is club volleyball season. And right now all of the teams, us included, are trying to navigate kids who are playing for both their high schools and their club team at the same time,” DeSain said.
T.C. Williams has been fortunate to have a deep roster, which was showcased in the victory against the Saxons (11-2).
The Titans surged ahead in the first set, jumping to a 10-0 lead. Despite Langley then outscoring T.C. Williams 16-9 to cut the lead to three, the Titans pulled away.
In the second set, T.C. Williams went on an early 6-0 run to take control. Sophomore setter Chloe Wilmot was all over the floor, setting up her teammates for scoring attempts while making plays defensively.
“Chloe has been our most dynamic server of the past week,” DeSain said. “She’s played tremendous defense. She’s been digging balls up left and right and she’s been putting her teammates in a position to be successful on offense as well.”
Wilmot had a strong connection with junior middle hitter Jill Jones. Wilmot repeatedly set up Jones to deliver kills down the middle.
“We definitely have been getting our connection down, and it’s been great to have her as an option,” Wilmot said.
The third set went back and forth. When Langley took a 16-15 lead, the Titans called a timeout to regroup. T.C. Williams used its defense to secure a spot in the title game against defending champion Kellam.
“It’s crazy that we have gotten this far,” Jones said. “We have such a tight group of girls, and it’s been really fun to play with this team.”