By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The Warren County Wildcats coasted to a 25-10 first-set win over the host Central Falcons, then had to fend off serious threats by the Falcons in the next two sets to earn a 3-0 (25-10, 25-20, 25-20) victory in the rubber match of their early season head-to-head non-district volleyball tuneups.
After Central opened the match with an attack error, Rachel Cerretani, a senior setter for the Wildcats, reeled off four consecutive service aces and Warren County was never threatened as sophomore outside hitter Autumn Troxell scored four kills and Jade Rowe notched three kills (six for the match, including the Wildcats' 24th and 25th points of the set).
The Falcons' first-set offense consisted of two kills Kyla Strother and an ace by Morgan Davis.
But Warren County (3-0) seemed to take the Falcons (0-4) too lightly and lost its focus and sharpness as the Wildcats committed four player violations, two attack errors and a service error, as a kill by junior middle Tiffany Riggs was the offense Central needed to open the second set with a 9-3 lead.
Then the Wildcats got back on track to reach a 9-9 tie, fueled by three more kills by Troxell and an ace by sub Crystal Utter, a junior outside hitter.
The squads then embarked on six ties and four lead changes to reach a 19-19 tie on an ace by Brooke Post, the Wildcats' eighth of the match.
Utter scored a kill on a hit that caught the top of the net, followed by a service error by Post to create a 20-all tie.
Troxell then scored a touch spot kill, her eighth of the match, to reclaim the lead for the Wildcats at 21-20, followed by four consecutive aces by Utter to salvage the 25-20 set win for Warren County.
"We practice a lot getting the serves in the [defense's] holes, so I look a lot for that," Utter said.
The Wildcats' first-year coach Sarah Putnam made note of Utter's contributions.
"In practice, [Utter's] been doing great and this is the first [match] we've had an opportunity to put her in for serving, and I'm very proud of her," Putnam said. "She definitely exceeded everything I asked of her."
The Wildcats rode the positive momentum to a 16-8 lead in the third set, then the Falcons climbed back in to make it a tussle.
Trailing 17-11, Riggs scored two kills (four on the night), a down block of a hit by Jade Rowe, and two aces to lead the Falcons' offense in narrowing the deficit to 20-17.
"I noticed we were down, so I just tried to focus and get my head in the game," Riggs said. "I definitely couldn't have done it without the encouragement of the rest of the team. Some of those points were a little close."
From that point on, Katy Harriman scored a kill for the Wildcats, followed by two consecutive kills by freshman Nicole Baker for the Falcons, and an exchange of kills by Troxell and Katelyn Foltz for Central to make it 22-20 in Warren County's favor.
Troxell's then notched her 10th kill, followed by Hutzell's sixth and seventh aces for the match winning points.
"When they set [the ball] to me, I can just see, with my peripheral vision, where the players are going to be," the six-foot Troxell said. "If I'm late coming at the ball, I can just see to tip it in the spot where they're open.
"The season's going pretty good. I'm happy with our playing. I still believe we can do much better."
Warren County scored 29 kills to 12 for the Falcons.
The Wildcats scored a remarkable 18 aces on the night to five for Central.
After the close second set, "I just told the girls to settle down, relax, and play their game," Putnam said. "They know what to do."
"Honestly, I didn't look at the scoreboard [in the second set] and I didn't realize it was a close as it was," Falcons coach Allison Hoover said. "I was just encouraged by our hustle and how we stepped up our effort after losing the first set.
"There were definitely some positives tonight. We were aggressive at the net. There were times where we hustled to get the junk that came over the net, or the deep serves and deep hits. There were other times when we didn't do as well."