Lady Dukes start season 3-1

Published 9:29 am Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Cumberland High School varsity girls volleyball team continued a successful start to the 2016 season with a 3-1 victory over visiting Randolph-Henry High School on Tuesday evening.

The win improves the Lady Dukes to 3-1, a good start to a year in which their coach, Heather Sutton, expects them to take the step to a higher level of success.

“This group definitely has the potential to go further than last year’s group,” she said.

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Establishing itself as a winning program in recent years, Cumberland went 16-4 last year, its only losses coming against Goochland and Mathews High Schools.

The Lady Dukes finished first in Conference 42 during the regular season and second in the conference tournament behind Mathews, the team which also defeated them in the first round of the Region 1A East tournament.

Cumberland has lost four players from its 2015 squad due to graduation, including outside hitter Ahkiya Allen.

“She was just the leader, the vocal presence all the time,” Sutton said. “Ahkiya was our hustle player, our motivator, our positive energy, and trying to figure out who’s going to step into that role this year has been quite trying. And some girls do it on some days, but getting them to do it consistently has been difficult.”

This year’s roster is dominated by nine seniors. Sutton described them all as essential to the team’s success and highlighted three girls, in particular, who have emerged as the team’s primary standouts.

Senior middle blocker/setter Infinity “Bria” Anderson is a powerful force on offense with an outstanding kill percentage, while senior middle blocker/setter Kasie Fowler is not quite as aggressive but has probably stepped up the most as a leader recently, the coach said.

Sutton cited senior libero Allison Gilbert as being the team’s most consistent passer, always willing to sacrifice to make a play.

The coach expects senior middle/left hitter Tayziana Booker and senior middle/right hitter Shakiera Branch to develop significantly as the season progresses.

Gaining consistency in all areas will be key for the Lady Dukes moving forward. They visited Prince Edward County High School on Thursday and host Buckingham County High School on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m.