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Pioneers hold off Hawks in five sets

By Jim Laise -- sports@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Northwestern District foe Millbrook celebrated Senior Night with pomp and circumstance.

Fourth-year players Courtney Adams, Brittany Whitacre and Krista Winston and their parents were introduced before their match with Skyline, and they were crowned with model pink tiaras to don through the pre-game ceremonies.

Those three helped the Pioneers to their fifth overall win of the season and first victory this year in the district with a 3-2 (22-25, 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 15-11) decision.

But the stakes were set for this one even before the first serve. Millbrook (5-15, 1-7 Northwestern) and Skyline (7-11, 1-7) already knew their fates heading into next Monday's district play-in, in order to compete with James Wood, Handley and Sherando. Tied now for fourth, they already knew they had to play an extra match against each other no matter what happened Thursday.

So it was a senior for the Hawks who took it upon herself to make sure she and her team were heard from before this 2 -hour, 10-minute competition ended. All she did was score key points in the Hawks' victorious sets and seemed to try to will her team home. Her name was Katara Edwards.

Skyline defeated these same Millbrook Pioneers on Oct. 9 in Front Royal. But not only was it the last match coach Leslie Detweiler's team had won, that was the last time the Hawks had claimed a set.

Warren County, Fauquier, Handley, Sherando and James Wood had outscored Skyline, 15-0, in five losses.

But Edwards, an outside hitter, was quick to change that Thursday night.

She had her hand on the Hawks' final five points of the first set.

The first time she dove head-first and slid on the floor trying to recover a point. Once she got up, she dusted herself off and took control. She made two kills to close the set out. She had six for the set.

"It wasn't really embarrassing to slide across the floor. I do that all the time. That's my game," Edwards said. "If I dive and don't get it, it still looks good."

She was so dominant that she helped her team to the first two points of the second set, but then Millbrook's taller Pioneers stepped up along the net.

The district's leading shot-blocker, Ashley Humphrey, plus Adams and Whitacre sent her shots back at her and her teammates.

"They were stopping me, so I had to go down the line, into the corner or on the roll. Something," Edwards said.

Meantime Adams, the district's leader in kills and digs, made her presence felt in set two. After being held scoreless in the first set, she offered three kills, two blocks and two assists.

Humphrey was unstoppable at the net. She had three kills and five blocks in the second set, then frustrated the Hawks with one block and six kills in set three.

Before the fourth set, the last Skyline won, Detweiler told Edwards she had to make different kinds of shots.

"We just said she was doing a great job in the first set, but that she had to do some other things with the ball," said Detweiler.

Edwards responded with three kills after making just one in set three. She slapped the ball with the palm of her hand rather than slam it with her fist. She also placed shots rather than powering them. She scored Skyline's last two points to close out the victorious fourth set.

Millbrook's Humphrey had 21 kills and seven blocks. Whitacre had 16 kills and five blocks, and Adams finished with seven kills and two blocks.

Skyline's Humphrey had a game-high 17 kills.

The teams will meet at 6 p.m. at Handley High School.

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