By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Sherando's Whitney Dellinger wants what any hitter wants on the volleyball court -- a perfect set, a gap in the defense, a chance to crush a ball for a kill.
It doesn't' always happen, though. Sometimes the timing is off, the defense is in the right place, the connection just isn't there.
That's when Dellinger breaks out her secret weapon, a maddeningly effective dink shot. At Warriors coach Chuck Ashby's urging Thursday night, Dellinger unleashed that soft touch and victimized Skyline numerous times during Sherando's 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-8) volleyball win.
"Yeah, it's kind of my trick shot," Dellinger said. "We've been working on it a lot in practice so I can score more points that way."
After a hard-fought opening set, Sherando (2-2, 1-0 Northwestern District) needed a little something extra to create breathing room against the Hawks in the second set. Enter the dink-and-dink attack of Dellinger and Mackenzie Cornwell, who combined for six points off dinks in the second set to help the Warriors pull out the win.
"She was struggling to find her consistency on her swing, on her attack," Ashby said of Dellinger, a senior. "I kept telling her, 'Go to that dump, because until you get going you're scoring points, so you're not out as an option of our offense.' And Skyline has to cover that. They have to do something with it."
Skyline (2-1, 0-1 Northwestern) had few answers, as Sherando's soft touch and hard hitting by Alaina Combs (match-high eight kills) helped the Warriors start to pull ahead. Cornwell's kill to the back line put her team up 18-14, then Dellinger sandwiched a pair of those patented dinks around a Skyline passing error to keep teammate Erica Scully's pivotal six-point service run going to 22-14. Fittingly, Cornwell finished it off with a dink.
The Hawks looked strong from the start, racing out to a 10-4 lead. Sherando came right back with a 5-0 run to get within a point, and later tied it at 16-all on a Combs kill. Skyline fell behind after that, but rallied back to tie it at 19-all before some hitting errors cost them. Kelsey Singhas closed out the opening set with a kill off a double block for Sherando.
As solid as Skyline looked in the first set, the Hawks seemed gassed by the third. Sherando ripped off an 11-2 lead and never looked back as they completed the three-set sweep.
"As the match went on, I thought they really picked up their defense," Skyline coach Lesley Detweiler said. "So what was working at the beginning of the match wasn't necessarily working at the end. I kept telling my girls they needed to swing away, that's where we were scoring our points. We started to hesitate. We hit some in the net, we hit some out, and that hesitation really cost us at the end."
Skyline also had issues with net violations, something Detweiler said hasn't happened much this season. Sherando was also in the net a few times, but Ashby is willing to take the occasional penalty in exchange for aggressive front-line play.
"Even if we don't get that perfect pass, perfect set, we want to be aggressive on our third hit," Ashby said. "We want to be aggressive on our blocking. I think that's why you sometimes see us hanging in the net on blocks."
Carrie Robinson led the Hawks with five kills, and Lauren Moore added four.
Cornwell and Michelle Baker chipped in four kills each for Sherando.