By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Strasburg seemed to have Clarke County on the ropes in the first set of its match Tuesday night, but the set and the match was just a microcosm of both teams' season.
The Eagles rallied in the set and went on for a 3-0 (26-24, 25-12, 25-21) win over the Rams in Bull Run District action.
"We've just been like a roller-coaster all year," Strasburg sophomore hitter Lindsey Painter said. "We play well for the first game, and then our play just drops off."
All season Strasburg has been competitive with teams in its district, but has had trouble finishing off sets, and playing well throughout an entire match.
The Rams (4-12, 3-8 Bull Run) held a 24-23 lead in the first set, but the Eagles responded. Clarke County has been able to pull out a lot of close matches all season, and is currently in second place in the district.
The confidence the Eagles have as a team showed as they won the final three points of the set. A kill by Ammie Levi and an ace by Sydney Chrane finished off the set.
"We're really good at coming back and getting excited to win," Chrane said. "The first game we were a little rusty, we didn't have enough energy. But once we got all pumped up, and we became a team again, we played really well together."
After losing a close first, the Rams fell apart in the second set. A kill by Strasburg's Allison Bromley cut the Clarke County lead to 9-7, but the Rams would win only five points the rest of the set.
Chrane had five kills and a block during the 16-5 run that gave the Eagles a two-set advantage.
"Sydney's been a pleasant surprise," Clarke County coach Mary Brune said. "She's really stepped it up, and my setters this year are putting the ball where the hitters can hit it."
Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias was very unhappy with the play of her team, especially their desire to play well and compete.
"That's what's frustrating to me," Mathias said. "You don't go out there and give up -- ever. Heads go down and they just stop playing."
The Rams showed a little bit of life in the third set as they took an 11-10 lead on an ace by Christian Hepner. The Eagles once again responded. Three kills by Levi gave the Eagles an 18-13 lead.
Strasburg had one last spurt in them as they pulled to within 23-21 on a kill by McKenna Orndorff and two aces from Laura Taylor.
Chrane sealed the match with a kill, followed by her fifth ace of the match.
"My serves earlier weren't as good," Chrane said. "I kinda started getting a rhythm again, and getting my serves in better, and getting them over the net and that helped a lot."
Chrane led the Eagles with 11 kills, two blocks and five aces, while Levi had 11 kills and one block.
The Eagles (11-6, 9-2) are fighting for the top spot in the district, and Chrane said she has confidence that the best is yet to come for the Eagles.
"I think we're going to go so far," Chrane said. "I think we're going to play real good. We're just going to get closer, and be a lot more in sync together, and just play a lot better together."
Painter led the Rams with six kills and a block. Strasburg has a very young team with only three seniors on the squad, and Mathias is hoping that they can peak at the end of the season.
"We're young and we're going to work through this, and battle and hopefully finish strong," Mathias said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org