By Jim Laise - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- In the end a teary-eyed Rachel Speaker probably said it best.
"You have to battle back. You can't give up. Enjoy each and every game and do your best," the Strasburg senior said after the Rams ended their campaign in the quarterfinals of the Bull Run District Volleyball Tournament at Clarke County.
Clarke County won 3-1 (25-15, 25-15, 14-25, 25-17), and advances to the semifinals at Madison County High School on Saturday against third-seeded George Mason, who beat Central in another quarterfinal.
Saturday's first semifinal is scheduled for 3 p.m., with the George Mason vs. Clarke County (13-2) match to follow 30 minutes after its conclusion. The championship will happen at 7 p.m.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride of a season," Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said. "But we showed a lot of heart in the third game [victory]. It's a pride thing. I told the girls to make sure we played with it. I just told the players to think about where they started the season and where we ended. As long as we played hard, I can live with it."
Strasburg played hard in losing its third match of the season to Clarke, but it could not put a winning combination together except for one set.
In that one, junior Allison Bromley shined, and that gives hope for Mathias. "And she can play better," said the coach.
Strasburg was down two sets and set for eviction, when the 5-foot-7 Bromley and the visitors made up for lost time. Jumping ahead 5-1, it was the second straight set when they started strong early.
But rather than faltering, as the Rams had done in set two, they continued to pile up points for their only victory.
Strasburg led 4-1, 6-3 and 9-6 when Bromley made her presence known. She wrapped two kills around two Clarke County points to keep the cushion at three.
A Sydney Chrane block pulled the Eagles within two, but three Clarke unforced errors and a Christian Hepner ace made the score 15-9 to the liking of a boisterous Strasburg following on the visitors' side.
Strasburg finished on a 9-1 run.
In the match-deciding fourth set, Clarke County battled back from a 4-2 deficit to score six straight points for an 8-4 lead it would never relinquish.
Bromley finished the night with six kills and an ace. Three of the winning points and the winning serve came in set three.
Speaker had seven kills and a block and Julia Morikawa had six kills and two aces. Junior Marissa Doman added three aces.
"We have two good middle hitters, and if we can get the ball high enough for them they can do good things," Clarke County coach Mary Brune said.
Sophomore Sydney Chrane was probably the best player on the court this night. She enjoyed 15 kills, four blocks and two aces. Senior Ammie Levi stung the Rams with 10 kills, three blocks and an ace.