By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Jessica Ritter's serving and Emily Stowers' kills led the Mountain View Christian Academy Conquerors to their first volleyball win of the season, a 3-1 (25-20, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18) win over the host Massanutten Military Academy on Thursday.
Ritter, a diminutive junior setter/defender, unleashed eight of the Conquerors' 18 aces, including the 24th and 25th points of the first set, and topping off her day on the court with the fourth set match-winner.
"I work very hard on my serve," said Ritter, who has played volleyball since the sixth grade at Mountain View. "I really like serving and setting, but serving is my favorite part of volleyball.
"I try to get five aces a [match], so I'm pleased with eight."
Stowers, a substitute, used her 5-foot-11 height advantageously to hit a match-high eight kills, with four of those points -- including tally number 24 -- coming in the decisive fourth set.
"It feels great," Stowers said. "It's great to know that I can just come in and contribute so much to my team. Spiking is something I really work hard on. It's my favorite thing to do. You get all your aggression out."
In the first set, Mountain View's offense was led by sophomore Hannah Hardman's two kills and two aces as Stowers contributed three kills.
The Colonels could not manage a kill in the frame, with four aces accounting for all of their offense.
Ritter picked up where she left off to open the second set with her fourth ace of the match, then the teams stuck to each other like Velcro, engaging in six ties and three lead changes until reaching a 12-12 tie.
Massanutten then stumbled, committing three in a string of four attack errors, as Ritter's fifth ace gave Mountain View a 16-12 lead.
The Colonels then climbed back on a Seleh Applin spike and an ace by Jordan Budkowski to narrow the gap to 16-14.
Massanutten (1-3, 0-1 Patriot) then totally lost its grip, as the Conquerors (1-2) finished out the set on 9-2 run, with the final three points coming on Colonels' errors.
Massanutten executed a smart about-face to win the third set, mainly by stacking the deck with aces and tallying nine unreturned serves, including three each by Hollie Citerone and Applin, to overcome another set without scoring a kill.
Applin's first ace of three in a five-point service string knotted the score at 16-16. Then the Colonels shifted into high gear, outscoring Mountain View 9-4 the rest of the way.
The Conquerors turned into the vanquished by committing 11 attack errors and four service errors to help Massanutten come out on top, 25-20.
Applin, a junior hitter, led Massanutten with six aces and two kills, augmented by five aces and three kills by Citerone.
"It was good to get that [third] set win," said Applin, in her fourth volleyball season at Massanutten. "Basically, we need to work on calling the ball, getting down and being ready for the ball.
"I'm doing better on hitting and blocking, and definitely serving, this year."
The final set was closely contested, as neither squad gained more than a four-point advantage until Stowers' seventh kill made it 21-17 in favor of the Conquerors.
The Colonels then made two attack errors and Mountain View committed its 16th service error, before Stowers' eighth kill and Ritter's eighth ace put a bow on the match for the Conquerors.
Junior hitter Sarah Rosin supported the Mountain View offense with seven kills, and Hardman added five kills and four aces.
"We've worked so hard to get our first win," Ritter said. "We've been running drills since the middle of last year, just trying to get those perfect sets, perfect kills and aces."
Massanutten head coach Ann Tolley Hynes identified areas needing improvement by the Colonels.
"One of the basic things we've been working on is attitude," Hynes said. "We've got the talent, but if we get down, it really affects us. So the [third set] win was really big this week.
"We still want to improve our serving, and just defense in general -- transitioning to a defensive position is definitely going to be a focus this coming week."