By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- After his team dropped three of its last four matches against some of the best competition on its schedule, Sherando High School volleyball coach Chuck Ashby was looking for one thing Tuesday night -- confidence.
"I thought it was important tonight to get some confidence and to play like we knew how to play, not to look hesitant and unsure of ourselves," Ashby said.
The Warriors, who dropped two of three matches over the weekend to perennial Group AA state power Loudoun County and Group AAA Stone Bridge, regained some of their early-season swagger with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-16) nondistrict home victory over Hedgesville, W.Va.
"It's hard when you're in a tournament like that where you're playing one match right after the other," Sherando senior hitter Lauren Wilkins said of the Loudoun County Invitational. "But it's good because you learn how to push yourself and to be tough mentally."
The Warriors made things tough on Hedgesville, especially Wilkins (12 kills and eight of Sherando's 14 aces as a team) and fellow senior Morgan Sirbaugh (13 kills). After a slightly sluggish start that saw them trailing 8-7, the Warriors reeled off 15 of the next 18 points to take command. Sherando (6-3) followed a similar script in the second and third sets, using strong runs midway through to pull away from a scrappy Eagles team that didn't go down without a fight.
In the third set, Hedgesville pulled to within 17-15 on Danielle Hoffmaster's kill. However, a pair of kills from Wilkins and Megan James helped put the Warriors on the brink of the sweep. An Eagles service error ended the match in just less than one hour.
"We looked smooth with our ball control, our serving was a lot better than it has been, and Megan [Sirbaugh] was setting the ball well," Ashby said.
Megan Sirbaugh often had her choice of strong hitters to choose from, but what pleased Ashby most was the placement of her high sets.
"If it's off the net, that's actually a little better for us," Ashby said. "We're not a real tall team, so we don't want those sets too tight or they'll come right back at us like we found out at Loudoun County."
Wilkins had six of her 12 kills in the final set, including several she drove cross-court from the outside hitting position.
"When I go up, I see where the block is," Wilkins said. "It's all about getting up there and watching the court and knowing what's open."
Wilkins also proved dangerous from the service line. In the first set, with the Warriors leading 15-10, Wilkins served six straight points, including four straight aces at one point.
"I've been working with her on that," Ashby said. "With the way I have the lineup set, there really shouldn't be a weak server. That's what I want from our servers, to go back and keep beating down opponents. I don't want them feel more comfortable with any of our servers."