By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Central had a bad habit of falling behind early in each set Tuesday night at Stonewall Jackson.
It's a good thing for the Falcons that volleyball is known as a sport with plenty of momentum swings.
Central stormed right back and took control of each set and came away with its second straight 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-20) win to open up Shenandoah District play.
"It's just super exciting to come in and take our first district win home with us," said Central outside hitter/setter Lindsey Toothman, who finished with seven kills and a pair of aces in the match. "We're excited for the district and ready for [the next district match on] Thursday. We'll get out there and play [hard] again."
The Generals scored the first four points in the first set, opened a 5-0 lead in the second, and led 3-1 in the third set. Each time, the Falcons (2-2) hit big runs in the middle to take control and go on to finish off sets well.
"Every single season that I've coached at Central, we've liked to get down and we've liked to dig ourselves out of holes," joked Falcons coach Allison Huckstep, who is in her third season. "Every single set we got down [as much as] five points, but we were able to play ourselves back up and play well."
The first set was dominated by Central middle hitter Marissa Brandon. The senior had three kills, a block and two aces to set the tone for the Falcons.
"We all did pretty great tonight and this win is going to help us throughout the season," said Brandon, who finished the match with seven kills, three blocks and two aces. "It's a great win against a county rival. We had very strong play along the front and we were hitting their holes with attacks. It was nice."
Central twice trailed by five before knocking Stonewall Jackson back with a couple of crucial service runs to close out the set with an 18-5 run.
For much of the match, the Falcons did a better job with serving and with attacks. Central's intensity was high in the pre-match and the Falcons had well-placed kills to wrap up sets.
To close out the first, Theresa Barela and Lia Gosney had back-to-back kills.
When the second set again started tight, Barela attacked the Generals in another way -- peppering the back row with her high-level velocity on serves.
Central trailed 9-8 before Toothman returned sideout with a kill to tie the set. Barela proceeded to record four straight aces for a 13-9 lead.
Barela finished with a match-best 10 aces. The Falcons had 23 as a team, with only nine missed serves.
"We work on serving every single day," said Huckstep, who watched her team bury Warren County last week with 32 aces. "It's always been kind of a gray area for us. They've improved every single match and it's what keeps us in sets."
Barela finally missed on a serve, but the Falcons quickly got it back together behind another crucial attack by Toothman. In all, Toothman would drop three of her five kills in the second set during a 5-0 run to help Central open an 18-10 lead.
"[Toothman] was vocal, she's was energetic and she saw the open spots on the court," Huckstep said. "We had the opportunity to come in and see Stonewall last Wednesday [in a 3-1 loss to Clarke County] and see where the open spots were where we could attack. We were able to utilize that tonight."
Late in the set, Brandon had two huge blocks for points. The second had so much power that it zipped off a player on Stonewall Jackson's back row.
Central got another long service run from Barela in the third set, as her four aces helped the Falcons rally for an 8-4 lead. Two more aces from setter Kathleen Maynard and one from Haley Cahill -- the Generals were again out of rotation -- left the frustration in place for Stonewall Jackson.
"I think we were weak with our serve-receive and I think we weren't aggressive enough at the net," Stonewall Jackson coach Jamie Armentrout said. "The girls need to get an aggressive nature about them. They're [playing] scared right now and that's going to [decrease] in time with playing more."
The Generals got as close as two late, trailing 22-20 after back-to-back aces from Ashlie Clar. But Central had three straight kills -- one each from Cahill, Brandon, and Olivia Helsley -- to clinch the match.
Stonewall Jackson never got much consistency from its attack, finishing with just 13 kills. Seven came in the last set. Clar finished with three kills and two aces, and Whitney Wilkins had three kills and three aces.