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By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Coming off their first two wins of the season, the Central Falcons gave the Strasburg Rams all they could handle in a thrilling five-set Bull Run District volleyball match Tuesday night.
The Falcons took the first and fourth sets, but the Rams persevered, 3-2, (19-25, 25-17, 25-17, 20-25, 15-7) in the endurance test.
Central's first set win was only the second set the Rams had lost after four district match victories.
Strasburg committed an uncharacteristic 34 attack errors, while Central made 19 of the offensive miscues.
But when the chips were down, in the crucial fifth set, the Rams committed no attack errors and only one service error. Taylor Hill smashed two kills (match-high 13 on the night), Cassie Myers had two kills (11 for the match), and Corissa Alsberry and Rachel Speaker contributed a kill.
"It was crazy," Myers said. "We were insane. We wanted just to come here and kick their butts. We were so excited to get ahead and win.
"[In the fifth set] we made sure we got ourselves together and came together as a team."
Strasburg (6-2, 5-0 Bull Run) also smacked four of its 20 aces on the night in the final set, stroked by Alsberry, Julia Morikawa, Anna Racey, and Mary McCarter.
McCarter's only ace on the night was the match-winner.
"We weren't really expecting [the Falcons] to come out the way they did, we came more relaxed" McCarter said. "When we saw how scrappy they were, we got up and had to take it to them."
In the first set, the Falcons put the Rams back on their heels, breaking out to a 15-8 lead, as Strasburg committed six attack errors and two other violations.
Then the Falcons (2-5, 2-3 Bull Run) returned the favor by making four consecutive attack errors.
Nirali Khusal's three aces and a kill were key to keeping the Rams within striking distance as Central's lead was cut to 17-16.
After the squads exchanged attack errors and Hill bashed one of her many hard kills of the match for the Rams, Central finished out the set with a 7-2 run, with three attack errors and a service error by Strasburg, while the Falcons got aces by Marie Gurganus, and freshman Morgan Davis, leading up to the match-winning ace by Bailey Cook.
Central led 11-10 in the second set, when Strasburg went on a 7-1 run to gain an 18-13 lead, capped by Nirali's fourth ace.
The squads exchanged attack and service errors until the Rams gained a 22-16 edge and closed out the set with an ace by Racey, a service error, and two kills by Alsberry, the second one being the set-winner.
The Rams repeated their 25-17 success in the third set, overcoming a 16-14 Falcons' lead with a smothering 11-1 run, featuring two aces by Morikawa, two kills by Racey, a kill by Myers and an ace by Khusal, leading up to Brandy Clem's block for the 25th point.
The Falcons bounced back from the 2-1 sets deficit to take the fourth set, highlighted by a trio of aces and two kills by Theresa Barela, three kills by Kyla Strother, and two kills each by Rebecca Sigler and Davis, the second of which was a dig that landed just inside the Rams' backline.
Barela's second kill of the set was the Falcon's 25th point.
The Falcons' attack was led by Sigler, with seven kills, Strother with five kills, and Barela, with four kills and five aces.
"We just went in saying, 'don't think we're going to win this [ match], and don't think we're going to lose this [match], just play with your full heart, and don't give up,'" Barela said.
Strasburg's service leaders were Khusal, with six aces, and Racey, with five unreturned serves.
"We've been working really hard in practice, making sure we were aggressive at the net and making sure we're swinging through and where to put the ball on the court," Falcons coach Allison Hoover said. "We went out without any preconceived notions. We went out to play hard to and to do the best we could. The way we played and what we put out there, I think surpassed everybody's expectations. Strasburg's a very good team and I'm proud of the way our kids handled themselves."
"It was definitely a great match," Rams coach Suzanne Mathias said. "I like those kind, where it's competitive, point for point, and just going all-out for five [sets].
"We stayed consistent, we stayed confident, and played well. But we still missed some key serves, and it frustrates me that we missed them. But, for the most part, I'm pleased with what we did."