By Greg Brill -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- It was motivation enough for Strasburg middle hitter Jenna Smoot that Central was across the net. But when she heard the "chant" from the Falcons student section before the start of the third set on Tuesday night, Smoot was determined to end the volleyball match in three.
Smoot began the third set with a resounding kill and a block, and had three kills and a pair of blocks in the set, as the Rams swept the Falcons 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-14).
Just moments before the teams returned to the court, with Strasburg already ahead two sets, several students from Central countered a Rams cheer with "One, two, three, four, don't forget the football score."
Central's football squad improved to 2-0 on its season with a 22-0 victory over Strasburg on Friday.
Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias knew Smoot heard the chant.
"That really got [Smoot] fired up," Mathias said. "She said 'If that doesn't get you going, nothing will.'"
The Rams (6-1) again had to fight through a tight first set, with Central (2-3) doing better with its attacks and digs from the previous meeting, also a 3-0 Strasburg win on Sept. 1.
"We had a lot more confidence this time -- when we played them the first time it was our first [match] of the season," Central coach Allison Huckstep said. "We worked hard in practice closing up the holes Strasburg always seems to find. I think we did a good job."
Mathias saw improvement with her opponent: "They kept the ball in play a little bit more and they got the serve-receive up. Any team is more competitive when they can get the ball up and attack. They attacked better, blocked and improved, overall."
The Falcons rolled out to a 13-8 lead following back-to-back aces from Marissa Brandon. Strasburg trailed by four when Jaclyn Ayers sparked a 4-0 run to tie the set. Samantha St. Clair's serve proved effective as well, as she laced a pair of aces, the second tying the set at 15.
The set would stay close the rest of the way, but the Falcons could not gain an edge, largely due to serving errors. Central had nine service errors in the first set, and Smoot clinched the first set with her kill.
The Falcons had a hard time with their serves, committing 19 errors in the match.
Central opened the second set with a 2-0 spurt, getting a kill and block from Brea Hinegardner. Strasburg then scored nine of the next 11 points to gain control, and had a strong surge of attacks midway through the set to gain a double-digit lead.
Ahead 12-9, the Rams scored eight straight -- including seven straight kills. Lauran Agnew, who went without a kill and had four attack errors in the first set, got warmed up and had the first two kills. Smoot added three kills to her total, and her third spike lifted Strasburg to a 20-9 lead.
"We came out flat in the first set, but with Central -- it's a healthy rivalry," Smoot said. "I think we really wanted to come out and take it to them, and in the first set we were pretty disappointed with our effort. We worked harder in the second set and in the third set our excitement was definitely up. We were tying to win and [wrap up] the match as fast as we could."
Central cut it to 21-16 after three aces by Lindsey Toothman and a kill from Ashley Bodge, but St. Clair put Strasburg ahead two sets in the match with three straight aces to finish the second set.
"Her game has come around so much," Mathias said. "I'm on her all the time, so I think [her play] is coming around. Her serves and her attacks, I think it's all clicking for her right now."
For the match, St. Clair had eight aces.
"I was pretty excited for this [match]," St. Clair said. "The last time against Central, I did pretty well with my serve and I wanted to bring it over to this match. I kept telling the team to keep it up and get excited because not everybody was pumped for it. We did play well."
The third set stayed competitive, with Central down only 12-10 after a Strasburg attack error. However, the Falcons gave it right back with another service error, and the Rams all but clinched the match with a 10-0 run. Agnew dropped five aces during the run and Smoot added a kill and block.
The Rams have won their last six matches and have dropped only one set during their win-streak. Smoot finished with 10 kills and three blocks, Agnew had four kills, eight aces, and 11 assists, St. Clair had two kills and eight aces, and Ayers had five kills.
The Falcons had a two-match win-streak snapped. Hinegardner led Central with five kills and four blocks and Toothman had four aces.