By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- After struggling early, Skyline put together two solid sets to defeat visiting Brentsville 3-1 (25-21, 16-25, 25-15, 25-15) Thursday in girls volleyball.
The Hawks jumped out to a big lead in the first set, outscoring the Tigers 8-2 over the first 10 exchanges. But after its early success, Skyline fell victim to a determined comeback by Brentsville and nearly lost the set.
With the score 22-11, the Tigers took advantage of three Hawks service errors and some poorly played balls to put together a 10-2 run that closed Skyline's lead to 24-20 before a kill by Kristina Salazar finally put Brentsville away.
Tigers hitter Becca Winslow sparked the rally by nailing four of her team-high 10 kills in the Brentsville run.
With the Tigers holding the momentum heading into the second set, Brentsville kept a steady lead through the first 32 exchanges, then went on an 8-0 run to finish off Skyline. This time, it was Tigers setter Abby Baker who led Brentsville, scoring on four aces during the set.
With the Tigers holding the momentum, things looked bleak for Skyline as it began the third set. But the Hawks found a way to put their poor performance in the first two sets behind them and came roaring back to win back-to-back sets to take the match.
"We started out strong, but we lost our focus somewhere during the first set and it carried over to the second set," Hawks coach Lesley Detweiler said. "We began to realize after that second set that if we didn't pull together and get our focus back, we were going to lose. I thought the team really responded well to the challenge they faced at that point."
As in the first set, the Hawks jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but this time there was no letdown. Steadily pushing with hard kill attempts and good passing, Skyline was able to slowly mount a big lead. Several Hawks had strong performances in the set.
Tommi Michael, who had managed just one score on an ace in the first two sets, scored on two kills and a block to lead the Hawks.
"We were really getting our head down during the second set, but we started pulling it together before the end of the set," Michael said. "We really came together as a team in the last two sets. We just kept working to keep everyone up. Once that started to kick in, we really got into a rhythm and were able to take them."
Salazar, who had a near-flawless game on the back line with her digs, stepped to the net and registered three kills in the set. Courtney Massey also made her presence felt with two kills. Skyline got the set-winner when Brentsville server Kaelin Carreiro's serve fell short.
"We started getting frustrated during the last part of the first set," Salazar said. "We weren't working well as a team and it showed. That really had an effect on us in the second set. Even after winning the first set, we weren't really excited.
"After the second set, we realized that we had to get our spirits back up or we were going to lose. We started to encourage each other and work on keeping a positive approach. That worked."
Leading 2-1 heading into the fourth set, the Hawks left no doubt who the best team was on the court. Quickly mounting an 8-1 lead, Skyline polished off the Tigers with little trouble to finish the match in style.
The final set was truly a team effort, with four different Hawks making significant contributions to the win. Skyline hitter Heather Pomeroy led the way with six of her 10 kills for the match in the fourth set. Michael and Massey, who seemed to get stronger as the match progressed, both scored on four kills in the fourth set.
Oshene Kelly also had four kills during the final set, and Salazar scored on three aces.
"We're all really good friends," Salazar said. "We feed off each other. All we needed to do to get things right was to start backing each other up and helping everyone keep a positive attitude, and that was the key factor in our rally in the last two sets. All of us started playing better."