By Greg Brill -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The trash can didn't stand a chance.
James Wood outside hitter Emily Shannon was spraying the ball all over the floor in the first set Tuesday night against Jefferson County (W.Va.), lifting the Colonels out to a big lead with her kills and aces. Then just a couple points from wrapping up the set, Shannon sent a hard serve down the side out of play and right smack into a plastic waste receptacle.
When one of the line judges retrieved the ball, it was taken straight to the scorer's table to be cleaned.
Some melted cheese had interrupted play.
"I didn't even know what was going on, to be quite honest," Shannon said. "And then I look over and they go 'The ball's in the trash can, the ball's in the trash can!' And then it gets all cheesy, and I'm like 'Oh, great.' It felt like baby wipes, afterward."
Even a light-hearted moment couldn't slow Shannon and her teammates as they kept most of their hard hits in play and overwhelmed the Cougars 3-0 (25-13, 25-14, 25-15) at Shirley Gymnasium in their first volleyball action in two weeks.
James Wood (2-0) opened its season with a four-set win at home on August 25 against Spotswood. To say the least, the Colonels were itching to get back to the floor for competition outside their own team.
"We were really anxious to get back out here," Shannon said. "In practice we always go hard. I mean, even though it's two hours [for practice], we really bust our humps. We do have a young team [only two seniors], but you know, it's always good to have a team you can mold into."
The Colonels opened the match with power, as Hannah Tierney sent back a block. Tierney and Shannon, a pair of junior returning starters that give James Wood size, talent and experience on the front, combined to set the tone in the first set.
"They really stepped up and are leaders on the court," James Wood coach Jill Lester said. "It's really nice that the first play is a block by our middle, Hannah. That just set the tone and said 'You're going to have to step it up to get points against our defense.'"
The Colonels trailed 2-1 when Shannon sent down a kill to return sideout. James Wood proceeded to score the set's next 11 points, including six aces from Tierney. Shannon, meanwhile, dominated with her powerful attacks, getting five of her match-best 10 kills, along with two aces, in the first set.
The Colonels opened with nine first-set aces and finished the match with 21.
"We had a few too many service errors for my liking [11 in the match], but with the aggressive serves you take your chances," Lester said. "I'm always a fan of putting pressure on the other team's passing. They had a hard time getting the ball to their attackers, and I tell my kids that. We just need to be a little more [consistent] with our serve."
Even with five sophomores aboard, James Wood rarely had lackluster moments. Jefferson (1-2) tied the second set at 11 on a block from Shannon Lyons and hung around, trailing just 15-14 following back-to-back attack errors by James Wood.
However, a kill from Tierney returned sideout and the Colonels closed the set with 10-straight points. Once again, Tierney's serve (two aces in the run) was too much for Jefferson's back row, and the attacks of first-season varsity member Payton Clark (three kills and a block) clinched the set.
Lester rested many of her regular rotation in the final set to give her youngsters a chance for match experience. Sophomores Rachel Rau and Amanda Shaughnessy (two kills apiece) and Cate Beach (two aces) held their own in helping the Colonels gain a sweep.
"It's so exciting to see all our newcomers get out there and play," Lester said. "They all contributed."
The Colonels finished with 38 kills. Tierney had six kills, a pair of blocks and 10 aces. Megan Crabtree added six kills and three aces, and setter Carly Mullin finished with 24 assists and six digs.
"We played well on the front and the back row," Tierney said. "We were ready."