Tigers dig up some talent


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The Brentsville volleyball team boasts a boat-load of talented underclassmen. However, the Tigers’ dramatic turnaround from last year’s 2-18 campaign has a lot to do with the return of Crystal Phipps.

A senior setter, Phipps was the manager of the wrestling team last winter and decided to stay fresh for the softball season by not playing volleyball. Phipps came back on board this year and the results have been immediate. The Tigers finished their district season 8-4 and are 12-8 overall heading into the Bull Run District tournament today. Brentsville is seeded No. 3 and plays George Mason at home at 6 p.m.

“I’ve enjoyed helping the girls and I hope that I’ve done a good job trying to motivate them to perform better ,” Phipps said.

She’s done that and then some. As a first-year head coach at Brentsville and a teacher at Woodbridge, Michelle McGregor didn’t get a chance to recruit in the school much last year and was unaware of Phipps’ talent.

“She took last year off, so having her this year is wonderful,” McGregor said. “I am like ‘where were you last year?'”

Phipps, the team’s lone senior, leads the Tigers in assists with 143 and her serving percentage is a sparkling 93 percent. She is complemented by junior hitter Amanda Blankenship and sophomore Katie Knoll, all of whom McGregor can count on in the clutch.

“I don’t really have one person to go to,” McGregor said. “There’s three I count on to be there and to pull people in. But Crystal is certainly one of those players. She is a great leader and the girls look up to her.”

With this year being the last season the Tigers will play in a Group A district tournament — they will join the Group AA Northwestern District in the 2003-2004 season –Brentsville hopes to go out a winner. To do that, the Tigers will have to get past undefeated and top-seed Rappahannock County.

The Panthers (21-0, 11-0) beat the Tigers 15-3, 15-8 at Brentsville and 15-7, 15-10 at Rappahannock.

“I think the girls just have to believe in themselves and we just have to play our best,” said McGregor. “We can’t have mistakes in service returning and [have] serving errors. All the little things are important, especially when you are playing Rappahannock or one of the teams that is used to being on top.”

McGregor, who played volleyball at Brentsville in the mid-1990s, said there has been a revitalization of interest in the program since she took over two years ago. The junior varsity boasts 13 players and many of the varsity players that are playing key roles were members of the J.V. program last season.

And because of the influx of talent and interest, McGregor believes Brentsville will be just as competitive against Group AA foes next fall. The Tigers were 3-1 against AA teams this year, including two victories over Heritage and a win over Courtland.

“I definitely think that they can be competitive,” McGregor said. “There is more interest in the program. “…They’re saying, ‘hey come out, come to open gym’ and that’s how you get people interested.”

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