By Greg Brill -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- It wasn't the smoothest of victories, but Strasburg is not giving this one back.
Facing a Luray squad that put up a good block and hustled the entire match to keep balls in play, the Rams had to finish sets strong before pulling out a 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-16) non-district volleyball win on Thursday night.
"A lot of it was staying poised and focused," Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said. "I mean, [Luray] outscrapped us -- by far. But I also thought when we set up our attack and could hit the ball, they had a little harder time [defending].
"The girls even said, 'Man, they got some balls we didn't think they were going to get.' That's why you don't stop until the whistle blows. It was a good challenge for our girls."
While Luray was active around the net, no one had more crucial attacks than Strasburg's Jenna Smoot. Just a front row player in Mathias' rotations, Smoot led the Rams (3-1) with nine kills. A third of her total came during an important stretch in the second set.
The Bulldogs had closed to 14-12 on Katie Lowe's only kill of the match, but Smoot returned after a sideout with a kill off a Jaclyn Ayers' assist. Smoot got another kill off a free-ball, and a third straight kill for the Rams during a run that sent the lead to six.
Luray never got closer than five the rest of the second set and Strasburg moved ahead 2-0 in the match.
"It seemed like it took us a while [to get on track]," Smoot said. "But we started setting better [in the second set], we started passing better, and we moved our feet a lot better."
Though the Rams rolled in the third set to wrap up their third-straight sweep (Page County and Central also fell 3-0 over the last week), Luray caught Strasburg's attention with a fantastic start to the match.
A pair of kills from Danielle Montgomery (six kills in the match) opened the scoring, and Luray built as much as a six-point lead. After her squad fell behind 15-9, Mathias used a timeout for the only time in the match.
Coming back to the floor, the Rams worked harder to iron things out.
Strasburg took its first lead, 18-17, on a borderline call that went against the Bulldogs. Jennifer Kelly, who led Luray with nine kills, appeared to knock an attack off a Strasburg player on the nearside. Both officials were slow to make a call before ruling sideout, much to the dismay of Luray coach Julie Rothgeb.
Down the stretch, the Rams carried through, getting a tap from Smoot to win the highly contested first set.
Smoot was happy the Rams could survive a pair of tight sets to begin the match.
"We looked lazy in the first couple [sets]," Smoot said. "We came out flat. We need to come out excited. Luray definitely gave us a challenge. They're a quality team, and we knew that coming in."
The Rams also got eight kills from Lauran Agnew, five kills and two aces from Stephanie Conde, and four aces from Ally Kauffman.