By Jerry Holsworth -- email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- Clarke County and Handley trumped the new format for the 23rd Annual Apple Capital volleyball tournament. This year it was scheduled as a round-robin event with no championship match.
But after the first two rounds, the Judges and the Eagles, who were both undefeated, squared off for a de facto championship match. Clarke County took the match in four games, 25-15, 26-28, 24-20, 25-23, but both teams came away feeling that they had accomplished their goals.
The Eagles proved that after a grueling five hours and three matches, they are ready for the likes of Strasburg and Rappahannock County in the tough Bull Run District.
"We're thrilled with the way we played," Clarke County coach Mary Brune said. "We certainly played better tonight than we did last week. Molly Keelsing and Chelsea Nelson had a great tournament for us, and Leslie Rae Conner had an outstanding night as setter."
For the Judges, they demonstrated that the rebuilding process is nearly complete, and that they are again a team ready to take their place near or at the top of the Northwestern District.
"We were tired going into that final match," Handley coach Lindsay Hazelette said. "But I thought that we played strong throughout the tournament. Both teams were really scrappy and very competitive in the final match."
Conner led the Eagles in the first game, registering 12 assists. Keelsing got the game-winning kill off a set by Conner. In the second game, it was the Judges turn to shine. Leading for most of the game, Handley fought off a determined attempt by the Eagles to win when a Clarke County kill attempt failed to get over the net.
After the Eagles took the third game, both teams battled to the finish in the fourth game. The Judges, leading 23-21, looked as though they were going to force a fifth game, but Clarke County rallied for the win. Amelia Eyles scored on an ace, then Keelsing put Clarke County up with a kill. Megan Allison got the match-winner with an ace after subbing for Eyles.
"I thought that we did well tonight," Handley hitter Kara Dixon said. "We were really tired after the first two matches. But we stayed close in the final match against a very good team."
Central, which fell to the Judges and the Eagles, rebounded in its final match to defeat Washington 25-18, 25-21, 25-17.
"I was very happy with the way we played," Falcon coach Allison Huckstep said. "We played 100 percent better than we played so far this year. This was a tough tournament, and we struggled in the first two matches, but were able to pull out a win in the third one."