By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson was short-handed in its match with Riverheads on Tuesday night, as junior hitter Allison Singleton is out with an ankle injury. To make matters worse for the Generals, they ran into a red-hot and deep Gladiator squad.
The Generals were able to battle back from some deficits in each set, but still fell short in a 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-19) Shenandoah District loss to the Gladiators.
"I do think [not having Singleton] hurt us," Stonewall Jackson coach Jamie Armentrout said. "I think the girls tried their heart out. But with making some changes, and having to move some things around to make up for Allison, it really kind of threw a kink in where everybody is used to playing and who is used to covering where."
Singleton has been one of the team's top hitters all season, which put more pressure on the rest of the team to attack at the net.
The Gladiators have a very strong four-pronged attack on offense, and all four were pivotal in Riverheads' win. Sophomore Mariah Clark, and seniors Carly Casto, Hollie Michael and Sarah Arbaugh gave the Generals' defense fits throughout the match.
"It was hard to determine where to block because they did good at determining where we were blocking and hitting around it," Stonewall Jackson senior setter Michaela Koontz said.
The Generals started off strong in the first set. Two kills by Erin Goodier helped give Stonewall Jackson a 6-4 lead, but the Gladiators responded. Clark had six kills during an 18-5 run to help Riverheads take command of the set.
Casto was the Gladiator to step up in the second set. The senior had five kills in the first seven points to give Riverheads an early 6--1 lead. The Gladiators had no errors as they stretched the lead to 16-6.
"We knew we had to bring our A-game," Riverheads coach Mark Husband said. "The girls did a really good job of being aggressive to start the [match], and just really continuing throughout the match to play well and play with a high intensity level."
Stonewall Jackson (5-2, 2-1 Shenandoah) battled back to cut the lead to 18-15. Taylor Koontz and Goodier each had a kill during the spurt, and Michaela Koontz and Carlie Livesay each had an ace.
The two teams battled back and forth as Clark had two kills and an ace by Stonewall's Katelyn Hackenbracht and a kill from Goodier made it 21-18. The Gladiators finished the set off with the last four points, including two kills by Clark.
The Generals took an early 4-0 lead in the third set, aided by kills from Brooke Simpson and Taylor Koontz. The Gladiators responded, and eventually built a 21-13 lead before the Generals made one last charge. Michaela and Taylor Koontz each had two kills in a 6-3 run for the Generals. However, another Casto kill sealed the match.
Clark had 18 kills and four blocks to lead the Gladiators (5-1, 3-1 Shenandoah). Casto had 14 kills and 12 digs, and Arbaugh had six kills and two blocks for Riverheads. Michael added four kills, 16 assists and seven digs.
"We've got some very talented hitters that were able to stay in a good rhythm and swing well tonight," Husband said.
The Generals were led by Goodier with eight kills and 10 digs, and Taylor Koontz with six kills and 18 digs. Michaela Koontz had three kills and four digs for the Generals.
Despite the loss, the Generals are off to a strong start to the season and the team is still very upbeat about their potential.
"We just have 10 girls that just want to play volleyball, and they want to play volleyball hard," Armentrout said. "I think that's so important in our momentum and I think it's so important with how well we've been playing.
"I think this is just a little bump in the road, and I think that we can bounce back and stay on top again."