By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Finding an open spot on the volleyball court is always crucial to success.
Whether it's to the front, the back, along the side or in the middle, good teams know where to find weaknesses in an opponent's defense.
Coming off a sweep of Shenandoah County rival Central on Tuesday, Strasburg tried to get as many hitters involved as possible when George Mason paid a visit for Thursday night's Bull Run District match.
With the attacks on more often than not, the Rams got another 3-0 (25-10, 25-18, 25-14) win and found out a little more about what kind of team they will have with the second half of the season approaching.
"We're working on [finding spots] in practice and I'm trying to get them to carry it over to the match," Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said. "Tonight they did a good job of hitting line and hitting middle, and then, hitting deep corners."
To make those attacks successful, good passes must find the hands of the setter. Strasburg has two setters who are able to do their jobs well, one that has had plenty of court time over the last three seasons and the other, a first-season regular to the rotations.
Lauran Agnew's ability to beat teams in a lot of ways has made the senior one of the most respected players in the Bull Run.
Right from the start of the first set against the Mustangs, Agnew had her complete package ready. She compiled five kills in another lopsided first-set win for the Rams.
Strasburg had opened the Central match with a 16-point win in the first, but started a little slow against the Mustangs, leading just 8-7.
The Rams then scored the next seven points of the first set, getting three kills from Agnew. She won the 14th point with a tip to the front of George Mason's unsuspecting defense. Another kill by Agnew made it 15-7 before a missed serve gave the Mustangs sideout.
The Rams got serve back a short time later and Samantha St. Clair peppered George Mason with three of her six aces in the match.
With the lead at 20-9, Strasburg got a brief scare when Nirali Khusal and Alyssa Bane collided on the back row going for a George Mason attack during a long rally.
Bane stayed down on the floor a bit longer, but returned to the bench a short time later. Bane is the Rams' other server and she played in spurts for the rest of the match. She finished with nine assists.
"[Bane] got an elbow right to the sternum," Mathias said. "It knocked the air out of her and it was hurting her a little bit. She's going to be fine."
The Rams rallied behind Bane to score the last five points to complete the lopsided set, getting a pair of aces from Agnew to key the spurt.
Strasburg opened with 13 kills and eight aces in the first set. As a group, the Rams finished with 35 kills and 17 aces to keep the Mustangs constantly back on their heels.
"For [George Mason], definitely, their back corners were wide open the entire time," Agnew said. "Once we started hitting there -- like hitting 'line' -- whenever I would push a couple, they would start getting it back and that's when we'd start rolling it short."
For the match, Agnew finished with 11 kills, 16 assists and six aces.
"We knew nothing about George Mason coming in," Agnew said. "We knew we had to be on top of our game and come out with a win."
After recording just one kill and two aces in the first set, George Mason came out and jumped to a 10-6 lead in the second set.
The Rams gradually climbed back and re-took the lead. Down two, Agnew sparked a five-point run. She had two straight kills, including a push to the back row for a point. St. Clair came through with a powerful attack down the line for another kill, and Agnew had two straight aces for a 16-13 lead.
To finish off the set, St. Clair again had a stretch that left George Mason overwhelmed. A 6-0 run left the Rams one point away from going ahead 2-0 in the match. Corrisa Alsberry slid down the front row to get in place for a kill to begin the run and St. Clair found an opening in the back right-corner for another kill. St. Clair added an ace and Alsberry (five kills) and Taylor Hill had kills for a 24-16 lead.
"In the second set, it was closer than what it should have been," Agnew said. "A couple times they were in the lead by a couple points. But Sam [St. Clair] did a really good job serving and got us back ahead. Then our hitters started doing their jobs [again] and they got a lot of kills tonight."
To earn set-point, Siaura Saville (three kills) sent a attack deep that was deflected by a Mustang on the back row.
Strasburg raced ahead 10-2 in the third set, with St. Clair getting a pair of aces and Brandy Clem a block and a kill. George Mason got as close as 15-11 before Agnew had a strong closing run to lift the Rams to their sweep.
While on the front, Agnew hit a simple return with her fist, and the hit dropped for her 11th and final kill. The Rams had five more kills within their final 10 points, including the match-clincher from Casey Spiker (four kills).
Katie Breen's five kills led George Mason.