Second sweep in a Rowe for Wildcats: Junior hitter leads Warren County up front, Thompson scores from service line in win
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By Brad Fauber -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County volleyball coach Scott Wilde may teach at Rappahannock County High School, but there was no conflict of interest as the Wildcats toughed out a 3-0 (25-11, 25-21, 28-26) victory over the visiting Panthers on Monday night.
The Wildcats (2-0) didn't put on the prettiest display of volleyball through the three-set sweep, but they did just enough to survive a late push by Rappahannock in the third set to seal their second victory of the season.
"We were subbing a lot tonight, so we were kind of out of sync," Wilde said. "I'm so impressed that we fought back that third game and won that third game."
The Wildcats started the night strong with a 25-11 victory in the first set, thanks in large part to some impressive serves from senior Patricia Thompson and an imposing presence up front from 6-foot junior Jade Rowe. Rowe recorded three kills, coupled with Thompson's six aces, in a stretch that saw Warren County rattle off 11 straight points to take a commanding 12-4 lead.
"[Rowe] played strong," Wilde said. "That's only her second varsity game. She has come so far in such a short time. She is key."
On the other side of the net, Rappahannock (0-2) struggled early as its offense was virtually nonexistent in the first set, a fact that Panthers coach Tiffany Seal says was more mental than anything else.
"It's the same offense we've played the last two games," Seal said. "It's just getting the girls ready and getting them into the game, and maybe their heads just weren't quite there."
The Panthers had a chance to grab a victory in the second set after back-to-back aces by sophomore Kaitlyn Jenkins put them ahead 20-19, prompting a timeout from Wilde. However, the Wildcats came out of the timeout to record consecutive kills from freshman Autumn Troxell and junior Katy Harriman to reclaim the lead and eventually win the set.
The third and final set saw much of the same intensity, as neither team put the other away. Warren County ran out to an 11-8 lead before falling behind 14-13 midway through the set. Rappahannock later pushed the lead to 21-16, forcing Wilde to use a timeout to calm his team.
"[I told them to] just relax," Wilde said. "One point at a time, just get the serve in and play like you know how to play."
Apparently, the Wildcats listened.
After trading points on the next two volleys, the Wildcats received a huge momentum shift in the form of a thunderous kill from Troxell.
"Autumn had a big shot that got them all fired up," Wilde said. "She's just got natural talent."
Warren County used that momentum to eventually tie the set at 25-25, benefiting from two more kills from Rowe and aces from Sydney Anderson and Cemre Sabin.
But it was the ace that came off the hand of Rowe that sent the Wildcats leaping for joy.
"[I thought about] what was going to happen if I didn't make it," said Rowe of her game-winning serve. "I had to make it -- I knew I had to make it."