By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The final score did not look pretty for Sherando. However, Warriors coach Chuck Ashby and his squad walked away from their 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-10) loss to James Wood feeling pretty good about the future.
With a young squad, Ashby looked at Tuesday night's loss as a real learning experience for his team.
"I thought we played well the first two games," Ashby said. "We let ourselves dig too deep of a hole in the second game. I thought James Wood played well. They are a tough team. But I felt good about how we played. I think we're going to do OK in the district this season."
The Colonels were led by sophomore hitter Katie Houser, and with an experienced squad they are off to a strong start this season. Houser made an impact right off the bat against the Warriors, with two kills and a block during a 6-2 run to start the match.
Three kills by Jessica Henry helped the Warriors tie the first game at 7-7. A Tarah Wampler kill and two aces by Houser helped the Colonels pull ahead for a 13-8 lead.
James Wood stretched the lead to 19-13 before the Warriors responded with three straight points, including a Ryan Magalis kill and an ace by Whitney Dellinger. That would be as close as the Warriors would get.
A kill by Houser, a block by Ashley Hillyard and a kill by Wampler helped finish off the first set.
The Warriors (6-3, 0-1 Northwestern) started off slowly in the second set as they built an 11-2 lead, aided by five aces from Houser. The sophomore, who finished with 10 aces, was able to land several serves just inside the back line and caught Sherando off guard.
"I was trying to serve it deep, and then serve some short and keep them off balance," Houser said. "I really tried to think about where I was going to serve it before I served it instead of just aimlessly swinging away."
Trailing 12-3, the Warriors played some of their best volleyball of the night. They used an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to 16-14. Henry had three kills and Cassie Slater had two during the spurt.
The two teams went back-and-forth until two more aces by Houser helped them pull ahead for good.
"That was such a rush," Henry said of the Warriors' rally. "It was exciting to be down and then almost come all the way back. We just have to play that way all the way through the game."
The third set was never in doubt as the Colonels built a quick 10-4 lead and didn't look back.
James Wood (9-2, 2-0) was led by Houser with 12 kills and 10 aces, and Emilee Payne with 20 assists. Kelby Jackson had seven digs for the Colonels.
"I think we have some good players and we're playing well," Houser said. "We still have Handley coming up. I know Handley's talking a lot, and we're talking a lot. We'll just have to see how it goes."
Henry had nine kills and a block for the Warriors, while Slater added seven kills.
Sherando has been one of the top teams in the district for the last nine years. The Warriors lost several key players from last year's team, including hitters Morgan Sirbaugh and Brooke Schneider to graduation. They have a young team this year, which includes four sophomores.
The way they played against the Colonels gives the Warriors confidence they can make some noise in the district this season.
"It's like I told the girls afterwards, the district race is not over," Ashby said. "The good thing about our district is, we're going to see [James Wood] again. I'm excited to play them again and see how we do."