By Dennis Atwood -- firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- The Eastern Mennonite Flames maintained their perfect volleyball season on Thursday night by sweeping the Stonewall Jackson Generals, 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-23), in a non-district match.
The Flames previously swept Harrisonburg, Broadway and Page County, and haven't lost a single game in achieving their 4-0 record.
The Generals (2-3) had a decent performance in the match, and severely challenged the Flames in the third game.
But decent wasn't nearly sufficient against Eastern Mennonite's sophisticated attacks, with double-hitter fakes and crossing attacks, set fakes, and running jump serves.
"Stonewall is definitely the best team we've seen so far and they brought a lot of good competition," Flames junior hitter Leah Jacobs said. "I think we really fed off the energy of ourselves and were really able to connect and did a lot good things. And even when we were down, when they had a lot of serving streaks, we were able to keep it up and eventually turn it back over to us. "
The Generals opened the first game with a 5-0 run, built on two kills by senior hitter Heather Stout and a service ace by senior hitter/setter Nadene Pence.
The teams then fought evenly, with Jacobs notching three kills and two aces on the way to a 14-14 tie, before the Flames committed two attack errors to give the Generals a 16-14 lead.
After a Flames timeout, they mounted a seven-point scoring run with senior Kaitlyn Revercomb serving, including an ace and Jacobs lacing two more kills to take a 21-16 lead. It was too steep for the Generals to overcome as Jacobs slammed her sixth kill of the game, and the Generals committed an attack error to give Eastern Mennonite the winning point.
In spite of playing with an injured left ankle, Jacobs led the Flames with 14 kills, including the game-winner in the second game, a block for the match-winner and six aces.
Eastern Mennonite sophomore setter Maggie Hine provided 27 assists, and Revercomb served 16 points, including six aces, with her baseline running jump serve.
"I learned the new serving technique last week," Rivercomb said. "This was my second match doing it. I normally hit from the far end of the run, but I move my arm to hit it in different positions."
In the second game, six service errors plagued the Generals. After exchanging four-point runs to open the game, the squads fought evenly until an 11-10 Flames lead. Then Eastern Mennonite maintained a four- to -six point lead until Jacobs smacked the game-winning hit for another 25-19 win.
In the third game, the teams exchanged early seven-point runs. Jacobs led the Flames offense and served two aces, while Revercomb got two more aces and the Generals were led by Heather Smoot and Haylee Bowers until the Flames led 21-19.
Smoot then slammed two kills to create a 21-21 tie. The sides then exchanged two attack errors each to make it 23-23. Then the Flames caught a break as Smoot made two blocks, and Flames' Emma Beachy returned the second one, which glanced off Stout's finger tips for the 24th point. Jacobs ended the match with a block off a hit by Stout.
Stonewall Jackson's top performers were Stout with 13 kills, and seven blocks, junior setter Whitney Wilkins with 14 assists, and Pence with seven kills and an ace.
"The girls have been great in really grasping the several new techniques I've brought in and they've been working hard," said Flames first-year coach Mary Hine. "Like, I threw those jump serves on three players just last week and the next day they used them in a game.
"I know it hasn't been easy because I've also run a very hard conditioning program on them, which we do every day before we touch a volleyball. We don't have a very tall team and that's the purpose of having all these different plays."
"They're probably the best team we'll see all year," Stonewall Jackson coach Sophie Stout said. "They're very organized on the court, their team unity is great and their defensive coverage is top notch. We thought we had overcome the service errors problem, but in that second game we did serve out a good bit, and it was everybody, it was contagious. We did rally in the third game, and I thought we might win that one. But, I won't take anything away from Eastern Mennonite because they're a very good club."