By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Perhaps it was a case of pre-game jitters, or maybe it was the fact that there were some new faces out on the court, but Stonewall Jackson appeared overwhelmed for much of the opening set of Tuesday's road match against county rival Central.
The Generals, playing their first contest of the 2012 season, committed 10 unforced errors en route to a 10-point loss in game 1 of the best-of-five match. But Stonewall Jackson rebounded and eventually found its groove, winning the next three sets for the 3-1 (15-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-19) win over the Falcons.
"I guess pre-game jitters, they always get us the first match," said Generals senior libero Taylor Koontz. "Then after that we settle down and get it. The first match is always a little rough."
Things were certainly rocky for Stonewall Jackson (1-0) early on as Central (0-3) raced out to an 11-point advantage in the opening set. Falcons junior Rebecca Truban recorded three kills, and Katelyn Foltz added a kill and an ace in a six-point span to give Central an 18-7 lead, forcing Generals coach Jamie Armentrout to call a timeout.
Central extended the lead to 21-9 later in the game, but Stonewall began to find its offense late in the set despite falling 25-15.
"We had some confusion to start with, with some rotation issues," Armentrout said. "So, I think, once we got that sorted out and everybody knew where they were supposed to be, everybody started working together and things started clicking again."
The two squads battled to a 9-9 start in the second game before a kill and a block by senior Erin Goodier helped give the Generals a 14-9 lead.
Stonewall Jackson led 21-12 late in the set, but a string of Generals errors helped Central claw back into the set before a kill by Generals junior Allison Singleton gave Stonewall Jackson a 25-19 win to tie the match at 1-1.
Neither team was particularly sharp on the floor as the Generals committed a four-set total of 39 unforced errors, compared to 46 errors by Central.
"These first couple of games, we're just trying to find what works the best," Armentrout said. "At times it works, at times it doesn't, so we're working on it."
Twenty-six of the Falcons' errors came in the final two games, and inconsistency plagued Central all evening. Much of the struggles can be attributed to the lack of experience on the court for Central, which doesn't have any seniors on its roster.
Despite the sloppy play, Falcons coach Allison Hoover has seen an improvement in each of Central's first three matches.
"We had some poor plays, and we had some good plays," Hoover said. "I thought serving was improved from last night [against Skyline]. We didn't have nearly as many over-passes as we did last night. We probably didn't hustle as well, but overall we had a pretty good effort."
Junior Kyla Strother's five kills led Central offensively, and Foltz and Morgan Davis added a pair of aces each for the Falcons.
Singleton led the Generals with 11 kills and an ace, and Goodier tallied eight kills. Koontz was a menace to the Falcons' attack on Tuesday, finishing the night with 36 digs for Stonewall Jackson.
"I can't say enough good things about Taylor," Armentrout said. "When a ball goes back there, I just know she's going to get it. Our defense just wouldn't be the same without her."
Both teams play Thursday night, with the Generals traveling to Strasburg and the Falcons hosting Warren County.
Despite the winless start to the season, Hoover is confident the Falcons can turn things around in time for Bull Run District play, which starts on Sept. 11 against Clarke County.
"There are different parts to each season -- we haven't even started district play yet," Hoover said. "Stonewall's definitely a great competitor, but it's nice since they aren't in our district to see what we need to work on."