By Jeff Nations
This was the team Suzanne Mathias has been expecting to see, all season long.
The Strasburg High School volleyball coach has had some trouble convincing the Rams, but on Tuesday night all of the pep talks seemed to hit home as Strasburg picked up an impressive 3-1 (25-18, 25-17, 28-30, 25-22) victory over Bull Run District rival William Monroe.
"I knew it was in there -- somewhere -- within this team," Mathias said. "I've been preaching to them all year that they can play with any team. The difference tonight was our passing. We got our passes up so we could attack the ball."
Strasburg (5-13, 4-9 Bull Run) had done a fairly thorough job of hiding that ability the past few weeks, dropping three straight matches and nine of its last 10 heading into the rematch with the Green Dragons. Included in that string of defeats was a 3-0 loss at William Monroe on Sept. 27.
But with Taylor Hockman, Julia Morikawa and Rachel Speaker honored before the match on Senior Night, the Rams found inspiration.
"I felt like we really wanted to win for them because it's their last home game and the last game they're going to play in this gym," Strasburg sophomore middle hitter Lindsey Painter said.
Strasburg was sharp from the start, building a 9-3 lead after Allison Bromley's kill. It was the first of many kills for Bromley, a junior middle hitter. She finished the first set with three to go along with an ace and a block as the Rams grabbed the early lead in the match.
"We were all pumped up," Bromley said. "We got our hits, and we've got good ups."
Clinging to a 16-14 lead in the second set, Morikawa gave the Rams a boost with a kill to the back corner and Bromley followed up with another kill. Rachel Faris responded with a kill for the Green Dragons, but Bromley struck again with an absolute smash off a solid set. That sparked a 6-2 run to close out the second set. The Rams' Nicole Killen finished it with a kill to the back line.
The Green Dragons had no intention of going easily, as they proved in a wild third set. William Monroe led 23-19 after Kelsey Shifflett's dink, but Strasburg rallied back to tie it at 24-all on Painter's kill. The Rams tied it twice more after that, then took a 27-26 lead on Painter's ace. The Green Dragons regrouped to retake the lead, but the Rams knotted the score once more before William Monroe's Faris scored a kill and Kaleigh Breeden finally closed it out with an ace.
The Rams were unfazed, putting together a 17-6 run early in the fourth set to take command. Bromley closed out the match with back-to-back kills to finish with 16 on the night.
"She had a great game," Mathias said. "I've been telling her all year to just hit every ball, and she hasn't been confident. I thought she was confident tonight.
" ... Hopefully it's clicking with her that she can dominate the net because she jumps so high. I think she could put it on the 10-foot line every time if she got a good approach."
Painter added 10 kills for the Rams.
"I feel like we've gotten better," Painter said. "They didn't play as good as they did the first time, and I think we played much better. I think things are starting to click for us and we're starting to get better as the season goes on."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>