By Tommy Keeler Jr. -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Central's volleyball team was fired up for its "Dig Pink" match with Rappahannock County on Tuesday night. The Falcons came out strong, but Rappahannock County regrouped in the second set and didn't look back.
The Panthers rallied for a 3-1 (17-25, 25-11, 25-19, 25-16) win over the Falcons in Bull Run District action before a packed Central crowd.
The gym was filled for the "Dig Pink" match, which is done for breast cancer awareness and research. The Falcons wore pink shirts, and many of the fans in attendance wore pink for the match. In between the JV and varsity matches, the Shenandoah Cheer League performed in the gym.
All of the excitement and buzz seemed to help the Falcons at the start.
"The 'Dig Pink' game is always our favorite match of the season," Central junior setter Katelyn Foltz said. "I think we were really feeding off of the energy of the crowd."
Central (3-10, 3-4 Bull Run) used a balanced offensive attack to take the first set. They built an early lead and didn't look back. Sophomore Caelyn Moylan led the Falcons with four kills in the set, while Kyla Strother and Tiffany Riggs each had a kill and a block for the Falcons.
The second set was a different story for both teams. The Panthers raced out to a 10-2 lead, including three aces by Maddie Kopjanski, and cruised to the win.
The Panthers (8-7, 2-5) were aided by 13 Central errors in the set. The Falcons had some communication problems that led to some of the errors.
"We just stopped talking," Foltz said. "We started to get down, and we stopped communicating with each other. Sometimes when you stop talking, it's hard to pick it back up."
Once the Panthers started playing better, their confidence began to soar. The Panthers have struggled this season in the district, but coach Courtney Atkins said she knew her team was capable of playing the way it did after the opening set.
"We started attacking a lot stronger, and it helped turn the game around," Atkins said. "We came together as a team."
Central took an early lead in the third set. A kill and a block by Strother and a kill each by Moylan and Riggs helped give Central a 10-5 advantage.
The Panthers used a 14-5 spurt to take a 19-15 lead. Kopjanski and Kaitlyn Jenkins combined for kills as the Panthers took charge of the set.
"Once we get started, we kill it," Kopjanski said. "Once we get a few kills and get going, we just take off."
The fourth set was more of the same for both teams. The Panthers raced out to a 7-2 lead, and were in firm control throughout the set.
Rappahannock County was led by Jenkins with eight kills, and Kopjanski with six kills.
It was only the second district win of the season for the Panthers, who are hoping it's the beginning of good things for the squad. The team started the season 5-0, but had lost seven of it's last nine matches.
"This is a good feeling," Jenkins said. "This was a huge win. I think we really needed this. It's good to come back and get a win after several tough losses."
The Falcons were led by Foltz with 20 assists and two aces, and Moylan with seven kills and two blocks. Riggs added four kills and two blocks, and Strother had three kills and two blocks.
Central has a very young squad, with no seniors, and Central coach Allison Hoover said Tuesday's loss was another example of some growing pains the team is going through this season.
"It's been a lot of fun," Hoover said. "They're a fun team to be around. The girls have worked really hard. We've had some hiccups along the way, and we've had some great times. We just have to focus on the great times, focus on the positive and keep working hard."