By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- Maybe it was Sherando's youth, or maybe it was just some early-season jitters. It could've been that Spotswood played the better match. Whatever the reason, the Warriors simply couldn't put away the visiting Trailblazers during Thursday night's nonconference volleyball match.
Sherando held the advantage in set victories twice against Spotswood, even leading by seven points late in the fourth in what could've been the match-deciding set. But the Warriors couldn't close, and the Trailblazers stormed back to beat Sherando 3-2 (13-25, 25-16, 19-25, 26-24, 15-11), sending the Warriors to their second straight loss to open the season.
"The credit goes to Spotswood. Their offense picked it up but we just couldn't seem to answer a lot," Warriors coach Chuck Ashby said. "We would dig a lot of their balls too, I feel like we were there a lot of the time. I just didn't feel like we were putting the ball away like we're capable of doing. I'm hoping its just youth, a little bit of nerves cooking in there."
If youth and inexperience was a factor on Thursday, it didn't show in the first set for the Warriors.
Sherando quickly jumped out to an 11-4 lead behind two kills by senior Whitney Dellinger and a pair of aces by junior Clare Milburn, forcing Spotswood coach Jim Roth to use a timeout. That did little to slow down the Warriors, who easily rolled to a 25-13 win.
The Trailblazers didn't help themselves, committing 15 unforced errors and suffering from a few mental lapses that led directly to points for Sherando.
"I'm not proud of the way we started tonight," Roth said. "The first game was rough, we did not play well. Game two was good for us, it gave us some momentum."
Spotswood (2-0) appeared to gain some life in the second set, as senior Tabitha Nelson jumpstarted the Trailblazers with two kills and a block to immediately give her team a 3-0 lead.
The Trailblazers appeared to feed off of Nelson's energy, as Spotswood tallied 13 kills -- five from Nelson -- as a team on its way to a tying the match with a 25-16 win.
"She's playing better than I've ever had any player play for me at Spotswood in 18 years," Roth said of Nelson, who finished with a match-high 20 kills to go along with three blocks and two aces. "She's hitting the ball really well, and she's confident.
"I think [her teammates] get excited when they see a big hit and it just energizes everybody else for the next play."
Sherando (0-2) rebounded with a win in the third set as the offense tallied 13 kills and two aces, and the Warriors seemed primed to end the match in the fourth set as they held a 20-13 lead late.
But the Warriors helped Spotswood get back in it by committing five errors in a six-point span to trim its lead to 21-18. Another Sherando error sandwiched between kills by Trailblazers seniors Catelyn Moore and Nikki Lam tied the set at 22-all, and the two teams traded kills to tie the set at 23.
Sherando junior Melissa Marshall gave the Warriors match point with a kill following a timeout, but Nelson responded with a kill of her own to even the score. A Sherando error on a pass attempt and another kill by Nelson gave Spotswood the victory and sent the match into a fifth set.
Spotswood, eager to beat the Warriors for the first time in the program's history, jumped on Sherando quickly before the Warriors rallied to cut the score to 9-8 on an ace by Dellinger. But that would be as close as Sherando would get, as the Trailblazers pulled away for the match victory.
"I think our effort was there. We definitely have got to give credit to Spotswood, their libero seemed to pick up everything whether we tipped it or whether we hit the ball," Ashby said. "But I still feel as a team ... we only have three seniors, so we're relatively young. We've just got to find a way to get the point. We've got to find a way to put the ball away."
Senior Alaina Combs led Sherando with 12 kills while Dellinger added five kills and three aces. Milburn also added four aces for Sherando.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD