By Tommy Keeler Jr.
ELKTON -- Momentum can be a fickle thing in volleyball. Central found that out the hard way Monday night.
Just when the Falcons thought they had momentum, it quickly disappeared in a 3-1 (25-15, 22-25, 25-17, 25-23) loss to East Rockingham in the Shenandoah District tournament quarterfinals.
"Volleyball is definitely a game of momentum," Central coach Allison Huckstep said. "You never know when it's going to shift. Tonight it just didn't shift our way."
In the third set, it appeared the momentum was completely going East Rockingham's way. The Eagles took a quick 7-2 lead, but the Falcons battled back.
Central's Haley Cahill served four aces in a row, and kills by Lia Gosney, Cahill and Theresa Barela helped give the Falcons an 11-9 lead.
"I'm not going to lie, at that point I felt like we were going to win the game," Central junior Rebecca Sigler said. "It was a very nerve-racking game. I think we just got a little nervous."
With all the momentum seemingly on their side it vanished with the help of East Rockingham's Erica Stone. The sophomore had four kills during an 11-0 spurt which gave the Eagles a 20-11 lead.
Central (5-12) was able to close the gap to five with four straight points, including a block from Sigler, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
The fourth set was similar as the Falcons built a quick 12-5 lead, aided by three aces from Sonny Preston and two kills by Cahill. Once again the Eagles responded with a run of their own.
East Rockingham (9-12) used a 10-3 spurt to tie the game at 15-15. The two teams went back and forth the rest of the way. Sigler had two kills and two blocks down the stretch to keep the Falcons even at 23-23. A tip by East Rockingham's Alison Helmick and a kill by Kayla Marshall sealed the win.
"We put up a good fight to the end," Central senior Lindsey Toothman said. "We played hard. It just didn't work out the way we wanted it."
The Falcons started off slow in the first set and couldn't recover. The second set was close throughout. With the set tied at 21-21, Sigler took over. She had a kill and a block to give the Falcons the cushion they needed to win the set.
Sigler had three of her nine blocks in the third set.
"I was really happy with the way I was blocking," Sigler said. "I really surprised myself tonight. It feels good. I've been working on it."
East Rockingham, a first-year school, plays top-seeded Riverheads on Wednesday night in the tournament semifinals. The Eagles have no seniors on the team, and start all sophomores. Helmick had 16 kills, while Stone added 14 to lead the Eagles.
"We're really a JV team, playing at the varsity level," East Rockingham coach Disa Garner said. "We almost beat Riverheads last time, but the girls got a little nervous. I really think they can beat them this time."
Sigler had six kills to go along with her nine blocks, while Toothman had eight kills and two blocks for the Falcons.
Central could still advance to next week's Region B, Division 2 tournament, but will have to wait to see what happens in other district tournaments to know for sure. The Falcons are currently in the eighth and final spot and will advance as long as George Mason, Chatham, Manassas Park and Dan River don't make it the semifinals in their district tourney.
"I think we've really improved this year," Toothman said. "We played together as a team. We played our hardest.
"I think if we put our minds to it, we can be as good as we want to be."