By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline volleyball coach Lesley Detweiler made it a team goal this season to see improvement each time the Hawks play an opponent the second time around.
Though the season is still young, Skyline took a big step toward accomplishing that goal by beating visiting Brentsville, 3-1 (25-16, 17-25, 25-15, 25-15), on Thursday night after needing five sets to top the Tigers in their first meeting earlier this month.
"We really emphasized after the five-set match, we said once we start seeing teams again for the second time, we need to improve every time," Detweiler said. "That was a good start to one of our goals this season.
"We definitely serve-received better. The first time we saw them serve-receive was definitely a weak spot for us, so we did much better there and we just kind of started clicking offensively and we were able to take it in four this time."
The Hawks (4-2) turned in one of their most balanced efforts of the season on Thursday, as Skyline was fundamentally sound in all aspects of its game. Hawks senior Jenny Norman said Skyline simply felt more relaxed after seeing what Brentsville was capable of the first time around.
"I think we just knew what to expect this time and we came out more enthusiastic," said Norman, who led the Hawks with 13 kills.
Neither side was particularly sharp during the first few exchanges as errors from both teams led to the first five points of the first set, but Skyline sophomore Taylor Ziemer provided a spark to the Hawks with her performance from the service line.
With the Hawks leading 3-2, Ziemer stepped to the line and delivered a seven-point service run that included five aces to give Skyline a comfortable 10-2 lead.
"I think it helped everyone, especially me. It got me off to a good start and it got me really pumped," Ziemer, who led the Hawks with nine aces, said of her early serving success. "We've been working on serving a lot ... we've come a long way with that."
Skyline as a team was consistent from the service line all night, as the Hawks combined for 18 aces while committing just seven service errors.
The early advantage in the first set provided enough of a cushion to hold off the Tigers' comeback bid midway through the set, and three straight Brentsville errors gave the Hawks the set-win and a crucial 1-0 lead.
The Tigers rebounded in the second set as two straight Skyline errors gave Brentsville its first lead of the night at 11-10, and the Tigers ended the set on a 10-2 run to even the score at 1-1.
"The second game we fell down a little bit, we lost our enthusiasm and our momentum," Norman said.
Skyline answered immediately in the third set by jumping out to a 15-3 lead as Jessica Sims, Ziemer and Megan Reinhardt combined for five aces to go along with three kills by Norman during the run.
The Tigers managed to cut their deficit to six points later in the set, but a pair of Ziemer aces keyed a 7-3 Skyline run to end the set.
That momentum carried into the fourth set for Skyline, as the Hawks did not allow a kill or an ace from the Tigers in the set on the way to the 25-15 match-clinching victory. Ziemer scored six of her 12 kills in the final set.
Detweiler said Skyline's ability to recover from the second-set loss to post two straight victories speaks to the improvement of the Hawks this season.
"I would say that in the first week of the season we wouldn't have been able to pull it around so quickly and so strongly," Detweiler said. "We talked about tonight the fact that we don't have one standout. We have six players that need to play on the court all the time, and you need to be in the game ready to go. We did that tonight much better than we had been."
Carrie Robinson added four kills for Skyline, while Celina Pearman chipped in three kills and a block. Reinhardt led the Hawks with 23 digs.
Courtney Thornburg led Brentsville with seven kills, three aces and three blocks. Suzanne Catlin added five kills, and Ada Stanley chipped in four kills for the Tigers.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org