By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Strasburg volleyball coach Suzanne Mathias has been around the sport long enough to know that in volleyball, momentum is usually the difference between victory and defeat. And sometimes the best way to gain that always-important momentum is to simply be more energetic than your opponent on the court.
So Mathias placed a big emphasis on enthusiasm in the weeks leading up the Rams' season opener against county rival Stonewall Jackson on Monday evening, and the enthusiasm that Mathias has worked so hard to generate in practice spilled over in Strasburg's 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-18) sweep over the Generals.
"We've just been pushing hard to celebrate the kills, the blocks, the aces -- from the bench and from the floor. It's about momentum, and that's the only way I know to get it on the floor, is to start it from the bench and get it to the floor, and vice versa," Mathias said. "I felt that we looked good -- a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of talk, and that is what I've been preaching for four weeks now."
Strasburg's energy was apparent from the moment the Rams took the court to warm up prior to the opening serve, and they wasted no time in racing out to a quick 9-3 in the match's opening set.
Rams senior McKenna Orndorff started the night's scoring when her dig on the opening serve from Stonewall Jackson junior Kaylin Miller fell untouched to the floor, and three kills by senior Allison Bromley, an ace by Laura Taylor and two kills by Orndorff forced Generals coach Jamie Armentrout to call a timeout with Stonewall down six.
"I had so many butterflies. I think it was because it was the first game of the whole season, but we had the same energy that we had at [Eastern Mennonite University] in the first scrimmage we had," said Bromley, who finished with a game-high 14 kills and six aces. "Coach had told us earlier that we should come out with a lot of energy so that we could intimidate the other team."
The Rams (1-0) extended their lead to 17-8, but Stonewall (0-1) pulled to within five points later in the set on a kill by senior Allison Singleton. Strasburg took a 22-16 lead on a McKenzie Stickley kill set up by Marissa Doman's sixth assist of the set, and Bromley closed out the first set with her seventh kill to give Strasburg a 1-0 lead.
Stonewall Jackson shook off the loss and opened the second game with a 5-1 run thanks to a kill by Madison Long, an ace by Megan Vresics and a block by Singleton (team-high seven kills, three blocks, three aces). The Generals extended their lead to 11-6 a little later after a pair of Strasburg errors, forcing Mathias to call a timeout.
Two more Rams errors extended the Generals' lead to 13-6, but Strasburg rallied back to tie the set at 15-all behind two kills by Bromley, a kill by Mikala Alsberry and an ace by Emily Ioannides.
The Generals regained a 17-16 lead on Singleton's second block of the set, but the Rams ended the set on a 9-0 run -- backed by three kills by Bromley and two by Orndorff (eight total kills) -- to win the set.
"I think that's a little bit of our age. We're young, we've got a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing a lot, and it's their first varsity regular-season game," Armentrout said. "I think the mental aspect hurt us a little bit, but I think they're learning and it will get better."
The third set was also played closely, as the two teams found themselves knotted up at 16-all. But Strasburg again was able to make a late run, closing out the set with a 9-2 run to secure the sweep. Bromley again led the Rams' late charge, delivering five aces during the run.
"It's always competitive when it's a county rival. I don't think we played horrible ... I would've liked to have at least taken a set or two, but we're young, we've got some holes and we've got some people filling some big positions that were left last year," Armentrout said. "I think they're getting there, but it's going to take a few games. They're working hard trying to get there."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com