Warriors make right moves to top ‘Dogs

By Brad Fauber

STEPHENS CITY — The success or failure of Sherando’s volleyball team in Monday night’s rematch with Martinsburg (W.Va.) boiled down to one simple question — how well would the Warriors adapt to the Bulldogs the second time around?

Turns out, quite well. After falling to Martinsburg in five sets on the road on Saturday, Sherando seemed to make all of the right moves on Monday, and the result was a 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-21) sweep over the Bulldogs.

“We learned a lot on Saturday,” Warriors coach Chuck Ashby said. “I think what we learned on Saturday is that we had to play, and I think what you saw tonight — there was teamwork. There were a couple balls that fell, but for the most part you had girls covering other girls. We just moved the ball around.”

Sherando (4-3) was short-handed on Saturday with the absence of senior Whitney Dellinger and junior Anna Haycocks, but the Warriors were back to full strength in Monday’s rematch. It also helped that Ashby made some adjustments to how the Warriors would attack Martinsburg’s defense.

Those adjustments paid off for Sherando, and sophomore Kelsey Singhas thrived as the go-to scorer for the Warriors, delivering a team-high 10 kills in the win.

“We tweaked Singhas and Mackenzie [Cornwell]. I had Kelsey with Alaina [Combs], and that really helped a lot because they were following Alaina, and I think Kelsey really got going,” Ashby said.

Singhas made an impact early for the Warriors, as her two kills during a 6-0 run early in the first set helped Sherando gain a 10-5 lead over the Bulldogs (7-2). Singhas, who appeared to have great on-court chemistry with senior setter Blair Adams, later delivered back-to-back kills to extend Sherando’s lead to 14-8.

“What I’ve always told Blair is ‘you go with the hot hand.’ And I think we saw in that first game, Kelsey was hot,” Ashby said. “As a setter it’s like a quarterback and a receiver — you don’t stop until something stops that, and we just kept going to it. I think they spent so much time worrying about our middle on Saturday, and that’s what we learned is they single-blocked our middle and then left people wide. So that’s what we did tonight was just attacking on the wings.”

The Warriors closed out the first set with a solid effort from the service line from Dellinger, who went on a six-point service run that included three aces and placed Sherando at game point. Junior Michelle Baker scored a kill to end the set and give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.

Seven different players tallied a kill for Sherando in the first set, and balance on offense was a common theme for the Warriors throughout the match.

“We’re not going to have the one star hitter that’s going to outshine everyone, but we’re all going to put in the effort,” Adams said.

Riding the momentum from the big win in the opening set, Sherando again was able to create some distance in the second game with a 6-0 run that gave the Warriors a 13-6 lead.

The Bulldogs made it a two-point game later in the set after a kill and an ace by Alexus Bonner and a kill by Sophie Foster (match-high 15 kills), but the Warriors gained a 24-18 edge after back-to-back kills by Singhas and Adams.

A kill by Essence Underwood (six kills) and three straight Sherando errors pulled Martinsburg within two points, but Warriors junior Melissa Marshall delivered a cross-court kill to give Sherando a 2-0 advantage.

“I think on Saturday Sherando made more mistakes and we capitalized. Tonight, obviously we made more mistakes and they capitalized,” Bulldogs coach Wes Hall said. “I’m not used to seeing, from my team, two games like that in a row where we make that many mistakes. We’re very good when we can put pressure on a team … when we’re hitting, we’re very, very good.”

Hall said the Bulldogs made adjustments of their own after realizing that Sherando’s defense was focused on taking away Martinsburg’s tip play at the net, and the Bulldogs quickly raced out to a commanding 11-3 lead in the third set behind three kills and two aces by Foster.

Sherando slowly chipped away, however, and the Warriors gained a 19-17 lead on back-to-back kills by Cornwell late in the set. Sherando held the lead for the remainder of the contest before ending the match on a kill by Baker.

“I just think overall that third set speaks volumes,” Ashby said. “Never once did they seem to look at the score and just say ‘OK, let’s just go four [games].’ They just chipped and chipped and kept going.”

Cornwell finished with six kills for Sherando, and Dellinger added four kills and five aces.

Bonner contributed five kills for Martinsburg, and Foster had three aces and three blocks to go along with her 15 kills.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD