By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Sherando, to be sure, had been looking forward to Tuesday night with a growing enthusiasm.
James Wood had, too.
And now the match between the Northwestern District rivals is over, finished, kaput -- Sherando waltzed into Donald H. Shirley Gymnasium sporting camouflage warm-ups and fluffs of red hair, then walked out with a 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-14) win.
And somewhere in that gymnasium is sprinkled bits of intriguing microcosms.
Here's one microcosm: In the first set, Sherando hitter Morgan Sirbaugh suffered two errors, giving James Wood a 16-15 lead. Then she rallied, scoring a kill, an ace and another kill through the rest of the set.
That final kill was the set-winner -- Sherando setter Megan Sirbaugh took in an awkward pass, eased the ball to the middle of the floor, and Morgan Sirbaugh batted a kill to the right side of the court.
The 134 kills Sirbaugh has notched this season is far and away the best in the area.
"I wasn't really ready for it," Sirbaugh said of her set-winner. "I just knew that I needed to get it in and finish that game."
The Colonels seemed surprised Sirbaugh's kill landed inbounds. Then again, the Colonels seemed surprised the Warriors rallied, as Sirbaugh had, late in the first two sets to go up 2-0.
Sherando trailed 22-18 in the first set and 21-18 in the second.
Warriors coach Chuck Ashby produced a theory as to how Sherando pulled it off.
"It's heart -- it was just grit-iron, and it's what we've talked about in practice all week," Ashby said. "You cannot give up points and then give up -- you're gonna have to fight all the way through.
"... It's heart, it was all heart."
It also helped that Sherando's hitting was on point. Hitter Lauren Wilkins finished the night with 11 kills, each one seeming to come at the most opportune moment.
James Wood's hitting was hardly on point. The Colonels wrapped up their loss with 11 kills and 11 hitting errors. Sherando, incidentally, had 28 kills.
In fact, James Wood didn't find its first kill until hitter Megan Crabtree scored the Colonels' 10th point of the night. Wilkins' first kill came off the first set of the night.
By the time James Wood managed five kills, Wilkins already had seven and Sherando had 16.
Yet the Colonels led for most of the first set, and for plenty of the second set. For as aggressive as the Warriors were from the service line -- they had nine aces -- they were equally bothered by inexplicable service errors.
"It was back and forth the whole entire time," Wilkins said. "We just tried to stay focused and calm down, but stay excited at the same time -- and it was just crazy."
Here's another microcosm: With the first two sets tucked snugly in its back pocket, Sherando sent Brooke Schneider to the service line. She zipped a serve off Crabtree and rattled off another three aces, giving Sherando its widest margin of the match at 11-3.
The third set just came just that simply for Sherando. Even the final point of the match bounced around in the rafters before it plopped in the middle of six James Wood players.
Otherwise, James Wood played well defensively: Kelby Jackson had nine digs for the Colonels and Peyton Clark had four blocks. Crabtree added three aces.
The problem for James Wood was the hitting, the solution for which is simple: Get the ball to hitters Emily Shannon and Hannah Tierney.
"Hannah was only set four times tonight -- that's it," James Wood coach Jill Lester said. "And Emily only had ... seven kills. We just we need to get the ball to our attackers more.
"I figure if we get the ball to them a little more and reduce our hitting errors, we should be all right."
Sherando had little trouble setting up its hitters. In addition to Wilkins' pool of kills, Morgan Sirbaugh had seven kills and Schneider had six.
For that, Ashby produced another theory.
"Megan [Sirbaugh] was setting the ball well," he said. "It seemed like anybody she set was a kill, it seemed like that's all we had to do was get that pass and side-out."