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By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Handley coach Lindsay Hazelette generally likes to emphasize the importance of teamwork when it comes to her team's offense.
But with the Judges down 2-1 against Skyline in Monday's Northwestern District tournament play-in match, Hazelette made it clear that she wanted the ball to go to junior hitter Dierdre Carter.
The change in philosophy paid off as Carter tallied 11 of her game-high 21 kills in the final two sets to pull the Judges back from the brink of elimination in a 3-2 (25-16, 20-25, 24-26, 25-16, 15-7) come-from-behind win over the Hawks. Handley will play top-seeded Sherando today at James Wood High School at 6 p.m. in the semifinals.
"I told the team usually we are all about teamwork, but right now Skyline didn't have an answer for Dierdre [Carter]," Hazelette said. "So we were just trying to feed her as much as possible to come away with the win."
After a late rally in the third set fell short, Handley received the boost it needed in the fourth game when Carter slammed two kills early to give the Judges a 3-1 lead. The Hawks would briefly take the lead after consecutive aces from senior Jessica Saddler, but Semefa Tettegah tallied three straight kills midway through the set for the Judges and Carter recorded three more kills in the latter half to force a fifth set.
"I think just having the momentum from the third game traveled over to the fourth game," Hazelette said. "And just knowing that right now Dierdre was our hitter that was on."
Carter's front-row dominance continued in the deciding set as she slammed five kills in a 10-point span to give Handley a 10-3 lead. The Judges also received three kills from Alex Barnett in the set, and Alex Bazdar contributed a kill and two aces as the Judges completed the comeback.
"As I've said all season we just need all of our hitters to be all on, on the same night -- tonight we only had one but we were able to go with that and kind of build the momentum and still come away with the win," Hazelette said. "We just need to refocus tomorrow and come out and just know that winning shouldn't be taken for granted."
The night began on a good note for the Judges as they won the opening set, 25-16, behind four kills from Carter and some missed attacks by the Hawks.
The second set was a different story as the Judges offense struggled to get going. Handley committed nine attack errors, and the Hawks took advantage as senior Lindsay Lehew served up four aces late in the set to help Skyline pull away for the 25-20 win. Hawks senior Courtney Massey contributed three of her team-leading nine kills in the set.
Skyline carried that momentum into the third set when it jumped out to a 13-7 lead as Saddler tallied two kills and Massey added a kill and two aces during the span. The Hawks managed to halt a Handley comeback when Massey served up her third ace of the set to tie the game at 24-all, and back-to-back attack errors from the Judges gave Skyline the 2-1 lead.
"I couldn't have asked for a better battle," said Hawks coach Lesley Detweiler. "This is the closest we've played a district team all season.
"We took those two games in the middle and had some momentum but we couldn't carry it all the way to the end."