By Robert Edmonds -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County continued its search for its first victory when it hosted cross-town rival Skyline on Thursday night. The Wildcats overcame an early deficit to win the first set and gain the edge over the Hawks.
Skyline rallied and was able to swing the tide and quiet a raucous Wildcats student fan base to win three straight sets for a 3-1 (17-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-11) win and claim bragging rights in Front Royal until the two teams face each other again.
The Hawks took an early advantage in the first set while taking a 14-9 lead. With her team trailing, Warren County coach Cathy Brill took a timeout to rally her team. Following the break, Warren reeled off 9 straight points and 16 of the final 19 points to claim victory.
"I told the girls during the timeout that they were doing a good job of finding holes in the Skyline defense," Brill said. "I told them to keep that up and relax at the service line and we could turn it around."
Despite losing the opening set, the Hawks did not alter their game plan, but rather challenged themselves to step up their game. They continued to struggle with the Warren attack as the second set opened. Trailing by four, the momentum began to shift for Skyline.
"We just looked at it like it was a brand new game," Skyline's Hannah Graham said. "We acted like the first set didn't even exist. We felt like we were starting over."
A kill from senior Brooklyn Steele put teammate Graham at the service line. Graham led her team to 8 straight points, including two aces. The Hawks scored 15 of the final 18 points to even the match.
"It felt really good to know we were able to come out and play the way we did in the second set," Steele said. "The first game we just didn't play at all."
Both teams continued to battle in the third, but it was the Hawks who were able to break away to take a small lead. The Wildcats never gave in as they fought fiercely before finally succumbing to the more powerful Skyline squad. Steele recorded six of her 15 kills during the set.
"In the first we were doing such a good job of finding holes in their defense," Brill said. "We played it just like we had practiced. The difference was when Skyline started to close the holes. Once they took that away from us, they were able to get attacks."
Steele continued to lead her team as they looked to put away the Wildcats in the fourth set. Skyline did just that as Steele continued to contribute from the offense. She scored 14 points from the service line and added four kills as Skyline easily won the final set.
"I'm the captain of our team and it's up to me to try to lead us," Steele said. "I just played hard and helped our team do what we needed to do. It feels really good to get a win over them. This probably feels better than any other win in the district because of the rivalry."
"[Skyline coach Lesley Detweiler] stresses three things -- focus, effort and communication," Graham said. "We were a little rusty tonight, but Brooklyn [Steele] really brought us up. She played very well and it really helped the team get on track."
The Wildcats will have more opportunities to get their first win on Saturday when they play in the Spotswood Invitational.
"It's a little tough. We definitely want to get our first win," Brill said. "But, we are just going to continue to work hard in practice. We have a tournament on Saturday and three matches to prepare for so, that is our focus now."