By Brian Eller -- firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- With her team behind in the third game Tuesday night, Stonewall Jackson head coach Sophie Stout called a timeout.
Despite holding a 2-0 lead in the match, the Generals had misjudged several close calls, allowing Clarke County to take a considerable lead and gain some key momentum in the match.
But there was no need to be in the team huddle to hear the message. Stout's critiques could be heard from the other side of the gym, and as she repeatedly slapped her clipboard and became louder, all other gym noise became softer and softer.
"And that had better be the last ball I see drop over there," she yelled to her players, who up until that point were in control of the match, winning the first two games with relative ease. "There" had been the back left corner of the court, where the Eagles seemed to be placing their hits all throughout the third game. And despite numerous balls in the area, the Generals on the back line couldn't seem to judge whether it would land in or out.
It was an emotional timeout message, but it appeared to be just what her players needed to finish out the match, as Stonewall Jackson defeated Clarke County, 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 18-25, 25-23).
The momentum in the match began in Stonewall Jackson's favor, as the Generals jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The energy level among both teams was high out of the gate, and both the first and second games featured several lead changes.
"It was a tight match," Stout said. "Clarke County, defensively, they scrap and dig well, and when you come over here to play, you have to be ready."
One player who was "ready" for Stonewall Jackson was senior Heather Stout, who finished with a team-high 28 kills, five blocks and 10 digs. Teammate Nadene Pence tallied 13 kills and a dig in the win, while junior Whitney Wilkins picked up 39 assists as well.
But to coach Stout, it was Pence's success serving the ball, combined with Heather Stout's ability to close out the final game that left a good impression. With both teams taking turns holding a one-point lead, the Generals found themselves ahead, 21-19, prompting the Eagles to take a timeout to regroup.
Clarke County earned the next point to cut the lead to a single point, then tied the match up on the next serve. But a final kill by Heather Stout sealed the win for the Generals, helping them improve to 3-3 on the season.
"Our focus right now is trying to serve aggressively," coach Stout said. "Nadene, as far as the end of the game to finish that out, and they go to Heather at the end, that's the kind of stuff we need. We need the younger kids, the ones up front to really come along. That's definitely what we're hoping for before we push into the district."
Before the Generals can focus solely on district play, they must first go against a Strasburg team that defeated them 3-1 just last week. When asked whether the match would be a shot at revenge for Stout and her team, she cracked a smile, then didn't hesitate to respond.
"Yeah, definitely," she said. "And then we go to the Spotswood tournament, so we'll have to be on our best volleyball game. And Clarke County is preparation for all of that, because they're a good club."