By Jerry Holsworth - email@example.com
BERRYVILLE -- After taking Stonewall Jackson easily in the first set, host Clarke County struggled through the second and fourth set but was able pull out a 3-1 (25-6, 17-25, 25-14, 25-20) win in Monday's non-district volleyball match.
"I thought that we played a little tight after the first set," Eagles coach Mary Brune said. "Most of our passes didn't go to the right places, and we ended up not having much of an attack. Stonewall gave us a lot of free balls, so we should have been more dominant."
The Eagles took charge early in the first set, quickly jumping ahead 14-3 thanks to dominating play at the net and on the service line. Clarke County hitter Chelsea Nelson nailed two kills early in the set, and she, Meredith Roberts and Amelia Eyles combined for four aces to lead the Eagles' charge.
"I knew that our girls were a little nervous coming into this match because it was their first one this season," Stonewall coach Jamie Armentrout said. "I thought that once they got their nerves under control, they showed what our team can do."
The Generals didn't put up much resistance during the set, scoring on only two kills and one ace. Eyles finished off Stonewall with an ace and a set-winning kill.
With the Eagles in complete control and leading 3-0 to begin the second set, the Generals finally found their rhythm and got back into the match. An Eagles return that fell short tied the score 8-8, and Stonewall took the lead for good when a Clarke County return fell short to give the Generals an 11-10 lead.
With Stonewall holding a 21-16 lead late in the set, Generals server Ashlie Clar put the set out of reach with three straight aces. Stonewall got the set-winner when a serve by Isabella Eyles sailed wide.
"I was very happy with the way we responded in the second set," Armentrout said. "Our serves were better, our kills were better and our sets were better. I was very proud of the way they picked up their game after the first set."
With the match knotted at 1-1, the Eagles rallied in the third set. Two kills by Amelia Eyles and three aces by Nelson gave Clarke a commanding 9-2 lead, and Stonewall was never able to recover. Nelson led the Eagles on the night with 11 kills and six aces. Amelia Eyles also had a good performance in the first and third sets to finish the night with four kills and an ace.
Facing elimination, Stonewall rallied to stay close through most of the fourth set. After 20 exchanges, the score was tied at 10, but from that point on the Eagles slowly expanded on their lead. As in Clarke's other two wins, it was Nelson who led the way by hammering home three kills to help the Eagles pull away, 22-17.
"The fourth set was a very competitive set," Armentrout said. "We fell short, but the girls played hard all the way through. That's all you can really ask for."
Whitney Wilkins, who led the Generals with five kills and two aces, gave Stonewall some hope when she scored on a kill to pull her team within three, 23-20, but a service error and a short return ended the set and match in Clarke County's favor.
"This is early in the season, so you expect things to not go as well," Brune said. "But we definitely have a lot to work on."
The Eagles also got a good performance from Brianna Harrell, who delivered three kills in the critical fourth set. Ammie Levi also contributed to the Clarke win with four kills and three aces.
Besides Wilkins, Stonewall got a stellar performance from Clar, who had one block and four aces.
"I really didn't think that our girls were comfortable on the court tonight," Armentrout said. "But I think as the season progresses, they get past that."