Though winter sports seasons have begun, fall sports continue to make headlines, including Rappahannock County’s undefeated volleyball team claiming their first state championship and theater troupe winning the right to compete for one.
Volleyball: The undefeated state champions
Rapp’s varsity volleyball team traveled to the Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University last Friday to compete in the VHSL Group 1A State Championship. Following in the footsteps of past Panther teams who have competed in state finals before but never brought home a championship (to correct a misstatement in last week’s article), the team left RCHS Friday afternoon with a rousing sendoff, the entire student body lining the bus loop to cheer on the team. Boys cross country state champion Gavin Jenkins shook the hand of each player as they boarded the charter bus generously funded by the Rappahannock County School Sports Association (RCSSA).
Led out of the school and then to the county line by a convoy of fire trucks, rescue squads and sheriff’s office vehicles, all with lights flashing and sirens blaring, the team headed to Richmond for a team meal and an anxious night. As they arrived at the Siegel Center the next morning, they were met by a crowd of Rapp supporters numbering in the hundreds, all waiting for the doors to open so they could get in and cheer on their team.
By game time, the Rapp faithful, filling seats on both sides of the court, was estimated to be as many as 500 strong. As the Panthers took the court for warmups, the crowd cheered them on, setting the stage for the cheers to come.
In the first set, Rapp jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, with Mathews taking a timeout and then coming within 2 points. However Rapp again jumped out to a 19-11 lead, leading to a second Mathews timeout, which failed to slow the Rapp onslaught as the Panthers cruised to a 25-14 first set victory.
The second set was much closer, with Mathews taking an early lead and then both teams playing close, with 1- or 2-point leads throughout the set. Mathews took their final timeout with the score in their favor 22-21 but then Rapp’s Amber Smoot got the serve with the score tied at 23 and led the team to its final two points and a second set victory. The third set was a mirror of the second with both teams fighting for every point and neither able to build a substantial lead. By the end of it, however, Mathews scored their first win, taking the set, 25-23.
Rapp came out for the fourth set with determined looks, remembering their experience against Riverheads in the regional semifinal, and the results were much the same. Rapp went down 0-1 but then sprinted to an 11-4 lead on a service run by Ellie Young and never looked back.
The teams matched points to bring the score to 14-7 and then, with Brianna Settle serving, Rapp scored four straight on the strength of a huge kill by Sara East, a timely block by Sara and Ellie Young, and then another kill by Sara East. Mathews took their last timeout and scored two more points but Rapp took a 23-9 lead on another powerful kill by Julia Estes (her 29th of the game) and then, with Ellie Young serving and the score 24-11, Rapp players and fans watched with joy as Mathews hit the ball into the net and Rapp became the 2016 VHSL Group 1A State Champs.
After much celebration on the court and in the stands, Principal Mike Tupper and I were brought out onto the court by VHSL officials to present the team with their first-ever state championship medals and trophy. Lifetime memories were made as the team posed for photos and basked in the adulation of their dedicated Rappahannock County fans.
Returning home, the team was treated to yet another official escort once they reached the county line, as EMS and RCSO vehicles led them back to the high school. At the high school they were being awaited by dozens of fans and parents, all eager to congratulate them yet again on their magnificent achievement.
The weekend ended for the team on Sunday night with a surprise dinner put on by the parents of the players. Once again memories were made and the treasured moments of a very special 27-0 state championship season were celebrated. Congratulations to the team, to Coach Courtney Atkins and Assistant Coach Seth Wyatt, to the parents of the players, and to all the Rapp fans who faithfully supported the girls throughout their season.
And a special thanks to RCSSA, who not only funded the bus for the state championship but also the motel rooms for the team and the cost of their meals while on the road. Additionally, both RCSSA and the RCES Parent Teacher Organization very generously funded half the cost of each home playoff game ticket for our students, helping to ensure a loyal crowd at each home event. The state championship season was truly a community effort and the entire Rapp community should feel pride in the team’s accomplishments.
Theater: Region 1A champions, headed for states
Rapp’s 2016 Conference 43 Champion theater troupe traveled to Essex High School in Tappahannock last Saturday to compete in the Region 1A East Theater Festival — with a berth in the State Theater Festival Dec. 6 at stake. The team boarded the bus and headed just after dawn to the Northern Neck, followed by RCHS teacher James Sharpe pulling a trailer filled with props for their production of “Thieves of Mercy.”
Arriving at Essex, the team was thrilled to see a contingent of the Rapp faithful, joined by others throughout the day who headed to Essex after cheering on the volleyball team in Richmond. Performing third in a lineup of eight shows, Rapp endured the wait, through a dinner break and five more performances, before learning their fate.
The judges came out after deliberation, giving pointers and suggestions to all the teams, and then announced the 2016 Region 1A East Theater Champion was none other than drama club director Russell Paulette’s Rapp theater troupe! Winning their second Region 1A East title, in addition to having won their third straight conference title, the troupe also had two of its members, Trusten Murrah and Savannah Stevens, receive All Region honors.
The theater team will compete in the VHSL State Theater Festival at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6 at Monticello High School in Charlottesville, again performing Paulette’s original one-act “Thieves of Mercy”; Rapp is the first of four teams to take the stage.
Congratulations to Paulette, to the cast and crew of “Thieves of Mercy” and to all the fans of Rapp theater as RCHS looks to add more state accolades to its growing collection of postseason honors in VHSL athletics and activities.
Winter sports practices are underway with six basketball teams, two wrestling teams and two cheer squads practicing full time. The first home game of the winter season is next Tuesday (Nov. 29), with the boys JV and varsity basketball teams hosting Stonewall Jackson. The girl’s team opens their season on Friday, Dec. 2, hosting William Monroe.
All game schedules can be found online at rappahannockcountyhs.rschoolteams.com. Practice schedules can be viewed at bullrundistrictva.org. Go Rapp!
— Brandon Burley, athletic director