By Brad Fauber - email@example.com
Strasburg is seemingly stuck in an endless loop -- a recurring nightmare filled with poor passing, miscommunication and just overall inconsistent play.
That nightmare continued Tuesday at home against Madison County, as the Rams squandered a first-set victory by dropping the next three sets, losing 3-1 (25-21, 16-25, 19-25, 22-25) to the Mountaineers.
Tuesday marked the fifth straight loss -- all in Bull Run District play -- for Strasburg (3-9, 2-5 Bull Run).
"I'm just hitting the repeat button and saying the same things over and over. The last five losses it's been the same thing," said Rams coach Suzanne Mathias. "One or two mistakes and their heads just start hanging. In volleyball you cannot hang your head. You've got to play the next ball and just go."
Strasburg seized early momentum with a solid showing in the first set. Both teams fought to a 10-10 tie before two kills by senior Julia Morikawa, strong serving by Rachel Speaker and a struggling Madison County offense helped Strasburg gain a 17-11 advantage.
The Mountaineers (10-3, 6-1) slowly chipped away to cut the lead to 21-18, but Strasburg was able to seize the first set with a kill by sophomore Lindsey Painter.
Madison County committed 15 unforced errors in the opening set, including 10 attack errors.
"It was no easy contest for us," said Mountaineers coach Lindsay VonHerbulis. "We just had too many unforced errors [in the first set]. It's always a head game, no matter which team is better. We just had to shake off travel and first-game stuff."
In the second set, Strasburg returned to the sloppy form that has plagued the Rams for much of this season. Strasburg handed the Mountaineers 14 points off unforced errors in the game, but somehow managed to hold a 16-15 lead late in the set.
Madison County then rattled off 10 straight points, fueled by a pair of blocks and a kill by sophomore Cassity Lacy (team-high eight kills) and two aces by Samantha Atwell, to claim the 25-16 win and knot the score at 1-all.
The Mountaineers rolled to a 19-8 lead in the third set, but Strasburg made things interesting by pulling the score to 23-19 late in the game. But the deficit was too deep to overcome for the Rams, and back-to-back kills by Lacy and Logan Coates gave Madison County a 2-1 lead.
"I knew from past years that [Madison County] was going to be a really tough team, but I definitely thought we could beat them," said Morikawa, who tied with Painter for a match-high nine kills. "We have the talent, we just have to put it together."
Strasburg put itself in fantastic position to force a fifth set as the Rams raced out to a 13-4 lead in the fourth game. Strasburg rallied for a 7-0 run during that span, with Speaker serving up three consecutive aces during the process.
Things shifted dramatically midway through the set as junior Katelyn Weaver stepped to the service line for Madison County with the Mountaineers trailing 15-11. Weaver served up seven aces during an 11-point run that gave Madison County a 21-15 lead.
Strasburg tried to retake the lead as a kill by Morikawa pulled the Rams within a point at 22-21, but Madison County held on for a two-point victory.
"At this level that just can't be. You've got to be able to break their momentum somehow," Mathias said of Strasburg's inability to return Weaver's serves in the final set. "The girl served five in a row in the same spot and we were just standing there watching it over and over."