By Robert Edmonds
FRONT ROYAL -- James Wood stormed into the gymnasium at Skyline High School on Tuesday night and put a damper on the festivities on Skyline's Senior Night. The Hawks celebrated the careers of their senior players and then hoped to provide a win against one of the top teams in the Northwestern District to cap off the celebratory night.
The Colonels were not on the same page. James Wood overcame a five-point deficit late in the first set to slow the momentum of the Hawks and went on to win, 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-10).
"I think we came out playing pretty well," Skyline coach Leslie Detweiler said. "We passed the ball well and were getting some good digs, but I don't think we were playing the way we are used to playing this year. Things started well, but they definitely went downhill as the night went on."
Skyline provided a respective defensive presence when the night began as the Hawks managed to keep the ball in play against the powerful Colonels lineup. The Hawks provided big digs and used offensive ball movement to keep the Colonels off balance early as they took a 19-14 advantage.
"We kept saying we needed to push through and keep up our intensity," James Wood's Emily Shannon said. "We kept our heads up even when we were behind, and I am really happy about how we played and kept pushing all night."
Trailing by five, James Wood coach Jill Lester called a timeout to settle her team down. The break seemed to be just what the Colonels needed to regain focus as they went on a six-point run to take the lead after the timeout.
"We have an inside joke amongst the team," Lester said. "When I called the timeout, I brought in the joke. I knew they were focusing on the errors and I hoped to do something to get them back in their comfort zone. I wasn't sure if it would work, but I think it helped them focus on something besides their mistakes and relax."
The two teams battled to a 23-23 tie when James Wood senior Megan Crabtree recorded a kill to break the knotted score and give her team an opportunity at game point. James Wood quickly capitalized off the serve of Cate Beach to defeat the Hawks in the opening set.
The victory sparked the Colonels as they ventured into the second while it appeared that the Hawks suffered a blow to the enthusiasm they started the night with. Teammates Hannah Tierney and Shannon led the way for the Colonels as they combined for seven kills and an ace in the second game.
James Wood received contributions from all over in the game as the middle hitters capitalized on brilliant setter play from Emilee Payne. The sophomore provided opportunities to teammates up and down the lineup, including Peyton Clark.
"I told the team that the middle of our court was on fire," Lester said. "What I meant by that was how well we were hitting [from] the middle. Emilee [Payne] did a good job of recognizing the hitter that was on a streak and kept feeding them the ball."
"Emilee [Payne] did a good job tonight of passing the ball," Tierney said. "She got everyone involved. I think as a team we did a good job of passing and setting and giving ourselves opportunities tonight."
Clark notched a pair of kills in each of the second and third games. After handling the Hawks in the second, James Wood again took control in the third. Trailing by one, Shannon knocked home a key kill to tie the score, and then led her team to 10 straight points from the service line to build what would be an insurmountable lead.
A kill from Amanda Shaughnessy resulted in the final point of the night and secured the win for the Colonels as the team sets it sights on preparation for tournament play with only one regular season game left.
"Yesterday, we had one of our best days of practice," Lester said. "I think we are starting to peak now, and we're peaking at the right time. We have a game on Thursday and then we'll be getting ready for the tournament."