By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- After falling behind 2-0 in the first two sets, Clarke County came storming back to stun Skyline 3-2 (20-25, 16-25, 25-16, 25-13, 15-9) in Thursday's non-district volleyball match.
"It felt really good to come back like that," Eagles coach Mary Brune said. "I thought that we had some good moments in the first two sets. We just weren't able to put them together enough to get the win. Even through we were getting beat in the first two sets, our girls never felt like they weren't in it and had no chance to come back. That was a huge factor in our success tonight."
Skyline looked like it was in total control after the first two sets and on the way to an easy victory. Leading 8-7 early in the first set, the Hawks rattled off five straight points to take a commanding 14-7 lead.
Skyline hitters Kristina Salazar and Oshene Kelly owned the net during the first set. Salazar scored four of her seven total kills in the opening set, and Kelly contributed a kill and a set-winning block.
The Hawks were even more dominant in the second set, taking an early lead and never trailing. Kelly scored on three kills during the set, and finished the match with five. Tommi Michael also made her presence felt for Skyline, nailing three aces in the win. Courtney Massey got the set-winning kill, slamming the ball past the Eagles' defense.
Then suddenly, everything changed.
A kill by Clarke County hitter Ammie Levi to begin the third set got things started for the Eagles, and they never looked back.
With Clarke County leading 8-6, the Eagles went on a 7-0 run that left the Hawks far behind. Chelsea Nelson was the key to Clarke County's resurgence, scoring on three aces during the run.
With the Eagles leading 18-9, Skyline tried to rally and narrowed Clarke County's lead to 18-12 -- but it proved to be too little, too late.
Clarke County pushed its lead to 23-16, then Nelson and Amelia Eyles polished off the Hawks with back-to-back kills.
"We were feeling down after the first two sets, but we never lost confidence in ourselves," Eagles hitter Brianna Harrell said. "Whenever we get ahead, that really gives us confidence. I don't know whether there was actually a point where we knew we were going to win. We just started playing as hard as we could, and everything worked out."
With the fourth set up for grabs and the Eagles holding a narrow 9-7 lead, Clarke County exploded to outscore Skyline 10-2 over the next 12 exchanges to pull ahead 19-9. Kasey Canterbury got the set-winner with a kill.
Both sides pulled together for the final set and it looked for a time like the Hawks were going to rebound and take the match. But with the Eagles clinging to an 8-7 lead, Skyline made four straight errors on returns to give Clarke County a 12-7 lead.
That was all the Eagles needed to take the set and the match. Olivia Gore, Levi and Clara Thiel finished off the Hawks with three straight kills to end the fifth set.
"It's been a long two weeks," Skyline coach Lesley Detweiler said. " I think that we got tired and lost it at the end. We lost the momentum and we lost our focus after the second set."
One factor that aided the Clarke County rally was its depth. The Eagles got points from 15 different players, while Skyline got all of its points from only nine.
"After the beating we took from James Wood and Handley earlier this week, I thought we might be a little overwhelmed by another Group AA team," Brune said, "so it was really nice to be wrong about that. We really played some good volleyball tonight. This was a nice win coming before we get into district play. This really helps our confidence."