By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Tuesday night's volleyball match between Warren County and Central was like watching two people on a seesaw.
Both teams jumped ahead early once in each of the first two games, only to watch their opponent make a run to put victory in doubt.
In the end, it was the Wildcats, however, who prevailed in both teams' season opener, defeating the Falcons 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-20).
"Volleyball is a game of momentum," Warren County coach Scott Wilde said. "It shifts and changes. Last year, when this team got down they never came back. Tonight we got down 14-5 in the second game and came back and won the game. That says a lot about the character of this team."
But before the Wildcats could show their resilience, they had to demonstrate their ability to hold off a furious challenge.
Robin Mikulak and Rachel Cerretani led Warren County on a dramatic run to open play in Game 1. Mikulak scored five of her team-high 10 kills, and Cerretani nailed three of her game-high eight aces to lead the Wildcats to a commanding 11-4 lead.
But as the Warren County faithful watched in shock, the pesky Falcons came roaring back.
Lindsey Toothman led the way, scoring five of her game-high 11 kills in the Central rally. Olivia Hensley followed that up with a pair of aces, leading the Falcons on an 11-3 run that gave them the lead 15-14 midway through the game.
"I'm very proud of these girls," Falcons coach Allison Huckstep said. "We got down early and we could have caved in, but we fought back and got back into the game."
Both sides refused to budge after that, fighting though five lead changes and leaving the score tied 23-23. Wildcats hitter Alyson Fox, however, rallied her team with back-to-back aces to give Warren County a hard-fought 25-23 win.
Game 2 proved to be just the opposite, as the Falcons jumped ahead 11-4 thanks to an ace by Rebecca Truhan and a pair of blocks by Tiffany Riggs. Central was about to extend its lead to 14-5 before the Wildcats managed to respond.
But respond they did against the Falcons.
This time, Warren County was lead by Katy Dennis, who scored on three kills in the Wildcats' furious comeback.
Mikulak and Cerretani were also involved, hammering home three aces each in the decisive comeback.
Before the Falcons could react, Warren County had rallied to outscore Central 13-3 and tie the score 18-18.
"We just stuck it to them," Mikulak said. "We got way behind, but we rallied and got the win. I thought that was about as good as I've ever seen this team play. It was really cool."
With the Wildcats leading 23-21, Dennis and Fox connected on a pair of kills to give Warren County the win.
Although neither team could break away in Game 3, Warren County held the lead throughout. Central narrowed the Wildcats' lead to 21-18 late in the game, but a pair of kills by Fox put Warren County up for good.
"I thought both team showed a lot of perseverance," Huckstep said. "Warren County has a strong team this year, but I thought that we did a good job against them. I wanted to see how our team would respond to playing a Double-A team on the road, and I thought they did very well."
Warren County registered an amazing 21 aces against Central, and held their service errors to just nine total for the three games.
"We're a small team, so we practice serving every day, "Wilde said. "If we're going to have a chance to win, we have to beat the other team at the service line."