By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Having lost three players to graduation, Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy volleyball coach Ellie Wheelock how her team would fare this season. On Tuesday, the Patriots showed they are still a tough team for anyone to deal with.
The Patriots swept past Randolph-Macon Academy, 3-0 (25-8, 25-18, 25-13) in non-conference action.
"I didn't what to expect this year after losing three big seniors last year," Wheelock said. "So, I'm pretty impressed with what the girls have done."
The Patriots (8-0) started off a little slow and fell behind 4-2 to start the first set. Then SVCA junior hitter Carol Bartholomew and the rest of the Patriots got into a groove, and didn't look back.
Batholomew had three kills at the start of a 23-4 run to end the set.
Two kills by R-MA's Kelli Hutcheson helped the Yellow Jackets to yet another 4-2 lead in the second set. The Patriots responded once again.
Bartholomew had three kills and an ace during a 22-9 spurt for the Patriots.
"Carol works really hard," Wheelock said. "She wants to do well. She wants to put the ball down. She hates being blocked. With her in there, she's such a big asset."
The Yellow Jackets (1-1) put together a strong run to end the second set. Two kills by Emmanuela Imansuangbon and one by Hutcheson were put of a 5-0 run for the Yellow Jackets. A service error ended the set, but the Yellow Jackets had some momentum to start the third set.
"I think we were a little intimidated in the first game, but we played better in the second and third games," R-MA coach Cathy Brill said.
The Yellow Jackets hung with the Patriots throughout the first part of the third set. Two kills by Hutcheson and one by Imansuangbon kept R-MA even with SVCA at 10-10.
The Patriots then pulled away for good. They ended the match with a 15-3 run helped by five service aces.
Wheelock said she was happy with how her team played in a tight set.
"After we win those first two we have a tendency to drop that third set," Wheelock said. "It's nice to see that we can come back in it and show a little bit more energy after we got down."
Hutcheson had six kills and Imansuangbon had four to lead the Yellow Jackets.
R-MA plays at Wakefield today, and Brill said playing teams like SVCA are good for her squad.
"I wanted to see where we were at," Brill said. "We play Wakefield School tomorrow at their place so that will be another test. They are usually a really good team. I think these two games are really going to help us for our conference games, playing this level of competition."
Bartholomew had eight kills and four service aces for the Patriots. Krista Freemire had four service aces and two kills for SVCA.
The Patriots are just as surprised as their coach with how well things are going.
"I didn't think we would do this good because we lost three seniors, but everyone's really stepped up," Bartholomew said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd