By Brad Fauber -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Handley's balanced and consistent offensive attack proved to be just too much to handle for host Sherando when the two teams met in Northwestern District volleyball action on Thursday.
The Judges had seven different players combine for a total of 40 kills, led by senior Dierdre Carter's match-high 14. Handley swept the Warriors 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-17).
Despite Sherando's failure to win a set for the second match in a row, Warriors coach Chuck Ashby said his team looked much better than it did in Tuesday's loss against Hedgesville.
"If we could've just taken one [set], I would've felt a little bit better, but Handley hit the ball well and they pass better than they've passed the last couple of years," said Ashby. "But, I never felt like we were completely out of it."
Sherando (8-5, 2-2 Northwestern) had its best shot at stealing a set from Handley in the opening game.
The Judges (9-2, 3-0) raced out to a 10-4 lead behind three kills from junior Ana Ribeiro and a kill apiece from Carter and Allie Hoffman, before the Warriors rallied to eventually tie the set at 14-all. Senior Cassie Slater and sophomore Michelle Baker added two kills apiece during the run.
The two teams battled to a 17-17 tie before Handley's offense took over the set. Carter, Ribeiro and Rachel Dodson all scored two kills down the final stretch for Handley, and Alex Barnett's kill on a free-ball at the net gave the Judges the 25-18 win.
Ribeiro tallied seven of her 10 kills in the opening set, and Carter added five.
"Everyone on [Sherando] seemed to key in on Dierdre Carter, but we have everyone that can kind of counter-balance that," said Judges coach Lindsay Hazelette. "This team just steps up wherever we need them and I think it was a great team win all the way around."
The Warriors hung around for much of the second set, but couldn't seem to break the two-point barrier that separated the teams throughout most of the game. The Warriors' offense picked up slightly as senior Jessica Henry registered four kills in the set, but Handley's skill and athleticism up front once again seized control of the match.
With the Judges holding a 20-16 lead, Carter smashed three kills over the final seven exchanges, and Hoffman's ace gave Handley a 2-0 advantage.
While Sherando did find some success on offense against the Judges, Ashby was hoping to get a little more production out of some of his hitters. Henry led the Warriors with eight kills, and Slater tallied seven.
"I just never felt like we got Cassie [Slater] rolling the way I wanted to," Ashby said. "That was one big thing -- I kept wishing we could get the middle rolling to kind of free up some of our outside hitters."
Sherando erased an 8-4 deficit early in the third set after back-to-back aces by Blair Adams and a kill by Slater pulled the Warriors to within a point, but that would be the closest they would get for the rest of the night.
Carter, Dodson and Alexis Zygmunt each had three kills in the final frame as the Judges cruised to the 25-17 victory and the sweep.
"We've been practicing a lot of defense -- I think we're close," said Ashby. "We touched balls here and there -- touched them on the block -- but it's tough to contain, even when you know where it's coming from. I thought we did a good job on [Carter]. You're never going to prevent a hitter like that from getting any kills, but I felt like we contained her a little bit."