By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Strasburg seniors Lauran Agnew and Casey Spiker have been together for enough volleyball matches that they know each other's strengths quite well.
Both players have multiple skills around the net, and both can send home a spike with authority.
With the Rams far more consistent with their attacks, Central had a hard time adjusting to the flow for much of Tuesday night's nondistrict outing.
The result was a 3-0 (25-9, 25-19, 25-15) Strasburg sweep in a match that took exactly one hour to play.
A balanced attack that saw 28 kills spread out amongst eight players carried Strasburg through. Agnew and Spiker, in particular, made the most of their final match against Central by leading the Rams with seven kills apiece.
Knowing where to set each other by now has become near second-nature for the duo.
"I knew every time I set Casey I could tell her where to go, like where I was open, and she would do it and then she would get the kill," Agnew said. "Same as with Sam [St. Clair] or Corrisa [Alsberry] -- they would just hear me [say] 'Line, hard cross,' and that's where they would hit it. That's how we got the point."
The Rams (6-2) came out with strong play to have one of their best first sets of the season. Strasburg dropped 11 kills in the set and had just one attack error and one missed serve.
"We just knew we had to come out there and be consistent because of course it's a rival and they were going to play [more inspired] than they usually play knowing it's us," Spiker said. "We just made sure we got our [attacks] in the right spots."
With four different Rams getting kills, Strasburg sprinted to a 6-2 lead. Still ahead by four early in the first, Strasburg performed well behind Anna Racey's serve. Racey had a run of seven straight points, including three aces, and Spiker had two of her team-best three kills in the set to lift the Rams out to an 18-6 lead.
Strasburg got both a solo block and a kill to the middle by St. Clair to close out the lopsided set.
While the Rams were sharp, Central (2-4) struggled from the start. The Falcons had as many missed serves (four) as kills in the first set.
The Falcons bounced back and competed much better in the second set. Central began to produce better attacks along the front row and junior Rebecca Sigler took advantage. Sigler had four of her team-best five kills in the second set and the Falcons were in contention to even the match by pulling into a tie deep in the second set at 19.
However, the Rams got back their focus and had what it took to go up two sets in the match.
Timing her attack well, Agnew took a set from senior first-season starter Alyssa Bane (match-best 11 assists) and hammered home a kill to the middle to return sideout.
Strasburg's Julia Morikawa would serve out the set from there. On the final four points, Morikawa had back-to-back aces, St. Clair (four kills) nailed another kill, and Spiker had a well-placed kill to the back left corner.
"When it got close, that's when we had to buckle down and hit the ball," Agnew said. "The girls did well. They actually picked it up and didn't get down."
Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias was pleased that her team came out with the right approach at the net and the service line (13 aces in the match and one missed serve in the first two sets).
"I thought that we played pretty well," Mathias said. "Our goal was to attack the ball and just be aggressive at the net for the entire time. We just wanted to keep getting our serves in and just work really hard as a team. And I thought that they did that."
In the third set, the Rams broke a tie at 3 with a 9-0 lead to gain space, and led by as much as 11 before Mathias went back to using her expansive bench. Mathias has a 16-player roster and the long-time coach attempted to use a balanced mix of starters and reserves in the third set.
The Falcons got as close as 21-15 before the Rams took advantage of three attack errors by Central to score the last four points to cinch the match.
"It was a tough loss for us tonight and we did not play up to our potential," Central coach Allison Huckstep said. "Every team has off-nights, and unfortunately we had ours tonight."
With the regular season nearly at the midway point for the Rams, Mathias has been pleased with how the newer and younger players have come together so well. She especially likes how her six seniors have approached their final season together with purpose.
"The seniors are cringing at the thought that there is only 10 [matches] left, but I think they're giving me their all at this point," Mathias said. "They want to make the most of it."