By Robert Edmonds -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Dressed in pink in support of breast cancer awareness, Warren County hoped to ride the spirit and steal a victory from Liberty in Northwestern District volleyball action Wednesday night.
"Tonight was pink night and the kids were excited," Warren coach Cathy Brill said. "Our fans were here supporting us and cheering us on. That helped us get pumped up and we came to compete."
Unfortunately, the Eagles swooped in and flew away with a decisive 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-19) victory over the Wildcats to continue their impressive start to the season.
"We started with a little bit of a slow pace than we are used to," Liberty coach Theresa Gore said. "We have been playing some higher-level competition to start the season and it has been much faster. I think that the difference in speed hurt us a little at the beginning, but the girls played well and I'm really proud of them."
With only two seniors on the team, Liberty has found leadership in its younger members through a 10-1 start to the season. Facing competition from AAA schools has helped the team prepare, and that showed as the match began.
"Liberty did a good job of attacking and getting kills," Brill said. "We didn't get enough kills on our side. We knew this would be a tough game. Everyone in our district is tough when it comes to volleyball and we just came out and tried to do our best."
Led by Toria Gilbert, the Eagles jumped ahead quickly in the first game. A pair of kills and a block at the net from Gilbert helped her team to a 4-1 lead in a matter of seconds. Elizabeth Wood and Grace Teller each added a pair of kills later in the match, extending the lead and forcing Brill to call a timeout.
After the timeout the Wildcats made a run, pulling to within 1 at 22-21, but they were unable to complete the comeback after they committed two key mistakes to give Liberty the win.
"I told the girls coming in tonight to be ready and be fast," Gore said. "We weren't sure what to expect but they responded. We are a very young team, and I'm proud of how well we played and have been playing so far this season."
The Eagles jumped out early in the second set and coasted to victory as they began to adjust to the pace of the match. After never trailing during the first two games, Liberty fell behind in the third as the Wildcats played strongly, hoping to extend the evening.
Liberty withstood the challenge as they took advantage of Warren County mistakes to outlast the Wildcats. The win extended the Eagles winning streak to five. Gilbert recorded 10 kills and five aces to lead her team in the victory. Brooke Rutherford led the Wildcats' attack with six kills in the loss.
"Toria [Gilbert] and Elizabeth [Wood] are our leaders," Gore said. "They led us tonight and helped the team work through some nerves that we've been dealing with. Everyone played really well and I believe we can be a very dominant squad as long as we continue to grow through our experiences."