By Robert Edmonds - email@example.com
WINCHESTER -- James Wood opened up district volleyball play Wednesday with a bang and finished strong to secure the victory as the Colonels disposed of Skyline, 3-0 (25-12, 25-9, 25-22).
"Getting this first win was huge for us," Colonels coach Jill Lester said. "I told the girls before the match we had to put ourselves in the running if we want to be champions. They responded and we set the tone early."
The Colonels opened up the night with six straight points against the Skyline defense as they were led by senior Emily Shannon. During the run, Shannon recorded three points. The first came at the net when she blocked Hawks hitter Kristina Salazar.
Shannon added two kills during the run to put the wheels in motion as James Wood began to roll. Sparked by Shannon, the other Colonels began to join in on the action as James Wood controlled the tempo early.
Emilee Payne made opportunities abound for the Colonels by notching six assists in the first set alone, as Hannah Tierney slammed three kills and Shannon added three more to handily win the first set.
"Emilee [Payne] is a young setter," Lester said. "She is just a sophomore and she has a lot of pressure on running the offense, but it's a good pressure. This is good varsity experience and she knows what the expectations are and has done a great job of rising to the occasion."
"We got off to a slow start tonight," Hawks coach Leslie Detweiler said. "We appeared to be very timid and weren't going after the ball."
While the Colonels appeared to be clicking on all cylinders, the Hawks struggled as they aided James Wood in the second set with unforced errors to quickly fall behind. The young Skyline squad was reeling, but did not show any signs of giving up despite trailing by two sets.
"We all connect really well on the court," Shannon said. "The hitters were doing a good job and passing really well. We were pumped up, and knew we had to keep pushing and keep a level head until the game was over."
The resiliency appeared to be paying off when the third set got under way. Skyline grabbed a quick lead and set the pace early. Lindsay Lehew contributed six kills for the Hawks, and it seemed as if Skyline had found its way. The struggles with communication and passing vanished, and James Wood found itself trailing late into the set.
"Entering the third game, I told the team they needed to be aggressive," Detweiler said. "I told them that if they made mistakes because they were too aggressive, it was much better than making mistakes for being timid. They responded and they saw that they are capable of playing with teams that are the caliber of James Wood and make things happen."
Trailing 22-18, Lester called a timeout to remind her team where its focus needed to be. The reminder paid dividends as James Wood reeled off six straight points behind the serve of Kelby Jackson. With the opportunity for match point, the Colonels sealed the victory when Megan Crabtree blocked a Skyline return at the net to win the set, 25-22.
"We know that we have to expect the best and the worst, and be ready to respond to that," Payne said. "I think we were getting a little tired in the third game and they started playing well. We just did a good job of keeping it together and doing what we needed to do to get the win."
"Although we lost, the third game was big for our confidence," Detweiler said. "The girls played with heart and we have to build on that and continue working hard to improve as the season goes on."