It's tough to find a volleyball program anywhere in Maryland as consistent as Magruder's.
When the Colonels finished last year 18-4, it marked the 20th straight season in which Magruder finished with a winning record. That's the longest current streak among Montgomery County teams, but throughout this run Magruder has not won a state championship.
The program has reached the finals twice, most recently in 2009. This year's Magruder team has the look of a group that could be that special. The Colonels are 10-1, which includes an undefeated six-match performance at a tournament Magruder hosted last weekend.
"Our mix this year is young again but with three senior veteran anchors. We have four sophomores and one freshman on a team of 12, but we have three seniors who have all played for me since their freshman or sophomore year," head coach Scott Zanni said. "It's a nice mix of talented kids."
For Zanni, the team's biggest strength comes at the net. The group blocks well and is big- five of Magruder's six front row players are 5-foot-11 or taller.
It also helps to have one of the county's top setters in senior Noelle Waring.
"She's a hard working talented kid who runs our offense and holds it all together," Zanni said.
Joining Waring on the Magruder Tournament's all-star team was sophomore middle hitter Kaliyah Moss. One of the top middle hitters in Montgomery County, Moss has had a ridiculous start to the 2017 campaign, racking up 75 kills and only eight attack errors, a ratio Zanni said he's never seen before.
Senior outside hitter Kristen Martindell, a four year starter on varsity, has been remarkably consistent and does a lot of things well for Magruder including passing and blocking. Fellow senior Alex Salas has been a superb libero, with Zanni referring to her as the Colonels' anchor on defense.
A trio of outside hitters round out Magruder's standout performers. Sophomore Maya Scott has loads of talent and is an extremely dynamic attacker. Sarah Schaupp, also a sophomore, has improved tremendously after making the tough switch from middle to outside- she had 16 kills in Magruder's lone loss of the season to Churchill. Junior Sami Perkins has been the Colonels' best server, and already has 39 aces this season.
It's a squad filled with talent that has already responded well to the early test of playing six matches in one day.
"Winning your own tournament is always fun and it's important. However we don't want it to be the highlight of our season. We hope to continue to play good volleyball," Zanni said. "As for what we learned I think the value of playing as a team and that we have lots of depth. In the playoffs we used quite a few players in different roles."
It's expected to get tougher for Magruder to play good volleyball as the Colonels' schedule is filled with difficult opponents.
Up next for the Colonels is Blake, which Magruder beat in its sectional final two years ago. Damascus, which is expected to be a contender for the MPSSAA 2A state title, is still on Magruder's schedule as well as consistent state powerhouse North Hagerstown. Key divisional contests with Blair and Sherwood should be tricky, as will the regular season finale against Magruder's big rival, Gaithersburg.
It promises to be a challenging season for Magruder, though Zanni just wants his team to focus on themselves, not their opponents.
"The goal is to play good volleyball and strive to keep improving all year. Those are goals we can directly control," Zanni said. "If we can do those two things we expect to be a strong team that will be hard to beat."