By Jeff Nations
QUICKSBURG -- Host Stonewall Jackson had its big guns primed and ready to go against Shenandoah District rival Luray in Tuesday night's Dig Pink volleyball matchup.
Getting those big guns unlimbered proved problematic, though, as the Generals dropped a 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-19) decision to the Bulldogs.
The win gave Luray (9-4, 9-2 Shenandoah District) a regular-season sweep of the Generals. But unlike the 3-0 win on Sept. 20, this time the Bulldogs had to contend with dangerous hitter Allison Singleton. A junior, Singleton did plenty of damage when she had the chance. Those chances just didn't come often enough.
"Our passing was just not great, and passing is the fundamental key," Stonewall Jackson coach Jamie Armentrout said. "If you don't have good passing, you can't set anything up."
Decked out in pink uniforms for the annual breast cancer awareness match, Stonewall Jackson (8-7, 6-7) instead went quickly into the red as the Bulldogs raced out to a 10-5 lead in the opening set. The Generals charged right back into contention with a 6-1 run, a portent of the nip-and-tuck nature of the match.
Luray pushed its lead back to four points on a Stonewall passing error, but again the Generals rallied and forged a 23-22 lead on Megan Vresics' ace. Michaela Koontz's kill stretched the Generals' lead to two, but Luray's Danyelle McGrady responded with a dink point and a pair of Stonewall errors left the Bulldogs a point away from the win. Sable Ponn got it with another dink.
"We have to keep each other up, that's the main thing," said Ponn, a junior. "Once all of us are in it and we're all together, we just play like we should. We just go after every ball, get the passes up and get good sets."
The Bulldogs had slow-starting issues in the second set, as the Generals forged a 9-6 lead sparked by two aces apiece from Taylor Koontz and Katelyn Hackenbracht. Luray regrouped and ripped off a 12-3 run to take control. Sharon Kelly notched a kill and Brooke Dinges delivered back-to-back kills for the final three points in the set.
Although Singleton (10 kills) and fellow hitter Erin Goodier (six kills, 12 blocks) did what they could to end rallies, the Bulldogs' penchant for winning long volleys took a toll.
"We want that point, if we went that hard for it," Ponn said. "Stonewall's a very scrappy team -- you can't take anything away from them at all. They do have a couple hitters, but their defense keeps it going as well."
It was more of the same in the third set, as the Bulldogs continued to handle the brunt of the Generals' spikes and put the ball in play long enough to force an error.
"We have a couple hard hitters ourselves, so I guess they're used to playing against that," Luray coach Julie Rothgeb said. "It kind of helps when you go against another team that's a strong hitting team or a strong serving team."
Ponn, who tallied 11 kills overall, had six in the final set to keep the Bulldogs rolling. After winning seven straight matches before dropping a 3-0 decision to Stuarts Draft on Oct. 11, Luray is looking to get another streak going heading into district tournament action.
Michaela Koontz added 16 assists and four kills, and Taylor Koontz had 15 digs for the Generals.
"We just weren't making connections tonight," Armentrout. "The things that we know how to do -- passing, serving -- all the fundamentals were just lacking."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>