By Robert Edmonds -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- After two sets Thursday night, it appeared that the Warren County Wildcats had an opportunity to pull off an upset. After a narrow defeat in the first set, Warren County persevered and tied the game, sending the crowd into an uproar.
"Warren County played very well tonight," senior Eagle Leslie Conner said. "They had a lot of fans here and they were into the game. It took us a while to get warmed up and get used to what they were doing."
With an opportunity to knock off the Eagles staring at them, the Wildcats could not find a way to maintain control against the more powerful Clarke County squad. Behind the dominating play of senior Amy Hagerdon, the Eagles cruised to a victory in the third set and then withheld an early surge by the Wildcats in the fourth to finish the night victorious, 3-1 (25-19, 26-28, 25-16, 25-11).
"I feel like the girls have got the idea that they can play well," Eagles coach Mary Brune said. "They did very well when we played Handley last week and that has helped our confidence. We know as long as we keep attacking and passing and communicating we can play well."
Despite losing the second set, it appeared that the momentum shift began as the set came to an end. Trailing 24-21, a pair of Wildcat mistakes and a kill from Chelsea Nelson tied the match. Warren County would take the lead three more times and each time the Eagles fought back before finally taking the loss on the Wildcats' sixth opportunity for game point.
"We started slow in the first set and in the second we got in all of our subs, which we always do during non-district play when we win the first set," Hagerdon said. "I think that they played really well."
From that point on, Clarke County never looked back. The Eagles had four streaks of four consecutive points in the third set, including a six-point streak to stretch to a comfortable 11-5 lead early on. Hagerdon anchored the run from the service line and added five of her game-high 15 kills during the set. Hagerdon also had seven aces on the night.
"We definitely had the momentum going into the last set," Hagerdon said. "We are playing well and our team chemistry is good, but I still think we have a ways to go in tweaking our overall play."
The final set was more of the same as Clarke recorded 10 kills and five aces from the service line as they sealed the win, upping their season record to 5-1. Nelson and Molly Keesling each added seven kills on the night.
Conner helped to lead the way as she contributed with 21 assists to help her teammates en route to the victory.
"Leslie has been practicing a lot on our setting," Brune said. "She is our number one setter and tonight she was making some very good choices."
Conner and teammate Hagerdon both feel that while their team still has work to do as the season continues, they have made great progress and team confidence is growing with each victory.
"I feel awesome that I am able to rely on teammates and they work with me so well," Conner said. "I am just ecstatic that they trust me to run with it and we are able to get the opportunities we have. It is nice to know that we are bonding as a team and we seem to mesh very well this year. We just need to keep working, stay confident but not arrogant."
Warren County (0-4) was led by Katie Robinson with 12 assists and Robin Mikulak with six kills. Jasmain Ford also had 29 digs for the Wildcats.