By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Chelsea Academy showed determination on Monday when it traveled to Massanutten Military Academy.
Chelsea battled back from a 1-0 hole to rattle off three straight victories, claiming a 3-1 (14-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-21) win over the Colonels. Chelsea had to overcome six-point deficits in each of the final two sets to get the win.
"I'm happy with the win. The girls, they always get nervous that first game," said Chelsea coach Josh Petersen. "But they fought back, so I was proud of them."
Petersen said his team's starting rotation consists of two sophomores, two freshmen and a pair of eighth graders, and Chelsea's youth showed in the opening set.
Neither team could get a handle on the opposing team's serving early as serve-receive errors littered the opening exchanges. With MMA holding a 10-9 lead, the Colonels committed four consecutive errors en route to handing Chelsea a 14-10 lead.
After a Colonels timeout, MMA gained a point on a Chelsea pass error, and the Colonels' Jordan Budowski served 13 straight points -- including three aces -- to give MMA the 25-14 victory.
Budowski led all players with 10 aces.
"[Budowski] is a very consistent server, she's our first server every single game. I always know what to expect from her," said Colonels coach Ann Tolley Hynes. "I think we had momentum the first game, and then after it was over we gave it all away."
Chelsea Academy shook off the first-set collapse by racing out to an early 12-5 lead, thanks to a pair of kills from Michaela Berry and a score from Helena Briggs during the run as the offense began to find some rhythm.
Berry and Briggs each scored a kill later in the set to slow a comeback bid by MMA, and an ace and a kill by Theresa Sladke for points 22 and 23 helped Chelsea knot the score at 1-all.
MMA appeared to rebound in the third set by taking a 12-6 lead through the early stages. Budowski, Isobel Rissing and Selah Applin all tallied an ace during the span, with Applin also picking up one of her team-high five kills of the night.
MMA got sloppy during the latter half of the set, and Chelsea was able to slowly chip away at the deficit with some timely kills by Briggs and Berry. Berry's third kill of the set gave Chelsea a 22-21 advantage -- its first lead of the game -- and three errors by the Colonels sealed the 25-22 comeback.
Berry led Chelsea Academy with six kills and five aces, and Briggs and Maria Echanez tallied four kills apiece.
"We executed some plays. We served well and we played well at the net," Petersen said. "We executed on offense, which I was really happy with."
MMA again jumped out to an early lead in the fourth set, holding a 10-4 lead thanks in part to five combined aces from Budowski, Rissing and Applin. But errors once again hurt the Colonels and allowed Chelsea to erase the lead.
Chelsea Academy tied the game at 15-all on an ace by Briggs, and two aces from Hannah Lee and an ace and a kill by Tess Clark was enough for Chelsea to seal the 25-21 win.
The Colonels combined to commit 27 unforced errors over the final two sets.
"Sloppiness, unable to focus, maybe a lack of commitment, I'm not sure," Hynes said. "Whatever it is, we've got two more games left, so hopefully we can remedy it as soon as possible."
Sports writer Brad Fauber can be reached at 540-465-5137 ext. 184 or firstname.lastname@example.org