Varsity Volleyball Loses Its First ISL Final to Undefeated Flint Hill

Photo by Reid Alexander.

The GDS women’s varsity volleyball team lost to its undefeated opponent Flint Hill School in an exciting and highly anticipated Independent School League championship game on Sunday. The Hoppers maintained good spirits facing the ISL’s top-ranked team but were unable, over the course of the hour-long game, to overtake the Flint Hill Huskies, who won in three consecutive sets, 25–10, 25–17 and 25–10. 

A lively crowd of about four dozen GDS parents and students cheered on the Hoppers from the stands of St. Andrew’s School’s gymnasium, the neutral venue where the game took place. It was GDS’ first time in the finals of the ISL’s upper division after having lost only one game all season—also to Flint Hill, the ten-time Virginia state champions. 

The moment when the Huskies won the final point to secure their ISL banner, the GDS crowd bursted into a chant of “Go GDS!” As the players ran up the steps to their fans, no one seemed outwardly bothered by the loss. 

Senior Pallavi Bhargava, one of the team’s captains, said in an interview following the game that she did not mind the result. “I think that making it to the ISL finals was historic and such an accomplishment,” she said. 

Head coach Brandon Wiest told the Bit, “I was extremely proud of how hard the girls fought. We looked like we had more fun playing volleyball than Flint Hill did.”

GDS, which maintains the best record in D.C., will play in the D.C. State Athletic Association tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday, Nov. 10, after a first-round bye. 

The teams warm up before the ISL championship game. Photo by Catherine Dooley.

At 1:01 p.m. on Sunday, senior Claire Cooper, also a captain, served the ball to start the game. The Hoppers won the first two points, sending the GDS fan section into a frenzy. As the first set progressed, however, the Hoppers quickly lost their lead, falling behind as the Huskies won point after point. GDS’ head coach, Brandon Wiest, called two successive timeouts. 

After about 17 minutes of playing time, the Hoppers lost the first set. Nevertheless, they came out strong and determined in the second set, once again claiming the first two points. 

But as the set continued, the Hoppers again lost momentum. After a tide of encouragement from the crowd, the Hoppers won a series of points to bring the score to just 17–10 in Flint Hill’s favor. The GDS fans were slamming their feet on the bleachers, overwhelming the smaller Flint Hill crowd, which largely stayed silent. Flint Hill’s coach called the team’s first timeout of the game as its lead shrunk.

The Hoppers ultimately lost the eventful second set but returned to their row of chairs with smiles on their faces. In the first few minutes of the third set, the Huskies gained an early lead of 4–0 and carried it through to victory. 

Claire Cooper serves the ball. Photo by Reid Alexander.

“I think the team gave it their all,” Bhargava said, “and I think that we’re all working on staying positive even when things get scary.” She praised the team’s underclassmen and the effort they put in. “They’re so mature and composed and amazing,” Bhargava added.

Senior Lizzie Rosenman, the third captain, said after the game, “This season is honestly one of the best ones GDS volleyball has ever had, not just because of the way we played and our record, but because of the team and how well bonded we are with each other.” Throughout the game, the GDS team huddled together in a circle, patting each other on the back, after each point. 

Another constant throughout the game was the energy of the GDS fan section, which did not waste a moment to cheer on the players. Senior Felicia Paul, who attended the game, said, “I came here today because I’ve been watching the volleyball team throughout the season and I’m really proud of their hard work.”

Photo by Catherine Dooley.

Flint Hill’s supporters, meanwhile, remained relatively reserved, clapping lightly, if at all, after the Huskies won a point. Even their coach remained mostly silent, staring down at a clipboard, while Wiest paced back and forth along the sideline, cheering on his team.

Although they lost the ISL final, Wiest said the volleyball team is eagerly anticipating DC States. “We think we’ve got a really good shot,” he said. “We know we’re probably going to see St. John’s [College High School] in the semi-finals next Thursday, so we would love to have a huge turnout from our fan section.”

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