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By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline overcame 15 service errors to upend Rappahannock County 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-19) on Monday.
The secret to the Hawks' victory was, ironically, serving.
Skyline nailed 16 aces in the three-set match, including six by hitter Lindsay Lehew, in a case of feast and famine from the service line.
"Our serving is one of our best skills as a team," Skyline coach Lesley Detweiler said. "We're usually a lot more consistent than we were tonight, though. They have a tendency to be either an ace or an out, but we're getting better at it as the season progresses. It's coming along."
The opening set was close after seven exchanges, with the Hawks trailing 4-3 when Lehew stepped to the service line and completely changed the tempo of the set.
Nailing five straight aces, the Skyline senior left the Panthers in the dust for an 8-4 Hawks' lead.
"Lindsay's play at the service line was really important," Detweiler said. "Her aces really helped us settle down and finish the set strong."
With the Hawks ahead 9-6 a few moments later, a kill by Jenny Norman and three more aces by Lauren Moore gave Skyline a commanding 11-6 lead, and the Hawks never looked back.
Jessica Saddler got the set winner with, of all things another ace, giving the Hawks nine to go with their four service errors for the set.
If anything, the Skyline service errors were worse in the second set. The Hawks committed five service errors, which led to a 15-9 lead by Rappahannock County. With the Panthers holding the lead and the momentum, a dispute over the score held up the game for 10 minutes and the Hawks used the delay to regroup.
After play resumed, Heather Pomeroy stepped to the service line and the Hawks rattled off 10 straight points to take the lead 19-15. Pomeroy played a major role in the Skyline resurgence, scoring on five aces during the run. She got help from Courtney Massey and Lehew, thanks to a pair of aces by the Hawks' duo.
"I know that the number of service errors we had tonight wasn't the best we've done," Detweiler said. "But considering the number of aces we had, I'll take that in this match."
The Panthers tried desperately to get back into the set, but a kill by Saddler finished off Rappahannock County. Saddler, who seemed to come alive with the set on the line, got two of the Hawks' three set-winners.
The third set proved to be the closest of the match, with the Hawks jumping ahead 2-0 and holding on tenaciously to the lead until the final exchanges. Skyline didn't help its cause by committing six service errors during the set.
With the score 20-18 in favor of the Hawks, Saddler again began to make her presence felt at the net and carried Skyline to victory. Saddler scored three of the Hawks' final five points on hard kills that were impossible for the Panthers to handle. Then Lehew, who had played such a large role the Skyline's win in the opening set, got the set and match winner with an ace.
Besides Saddler, who had eight kills for the night, several Hawks had a strong match at the net. Lehew contributed seven kills and a block, and Massey scored on six kills.
"Matches like this one are important because they stress playing our game every time," Detweiler said. "We played down to them a little bit. But the last time we played them, it took four sets to finish the match. This time it took only three. I'll take that."
Also making a strong contribution to the Skyline offense were Tara Robinson, who had three kills in the final set; Pomeroy, who had a pair of kills to go with her four aces, and Sarah Beamer, who contributed three kills and two aces from the setter position.
The Panthers were led by Sarah Thornhill, who had three kills and two aces.