By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County has a new home this season in the Bull Run District, and although district play has taken a backseat to conference play under the new high school playoff format, the Wildcats know it's still important to win those matches against your district rivals.
The Wildcats have certainly made a good impression in their new district so far this season, and Tuesday's 3-0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-13) sweep over Manassas Park gave Warren County its third straight volleyball victory in Bull Run play. The Wildcats (4-2, 4-1 Bull Run) haven't lost a set during their current winning streak.
Things started slowly for Warren County on Tuesday night, which may have been the byproduct of the Wildcats overlooking the Cougars (1-5, 0-4) while keeping their eyes on Thursday's match with defending district champion Madison County.
"Overall I thought we did come out slow, but we did finish strong, finishing each game with a win," Wildcats coach Sarah Putnam said. "It's always tough when you play a school for the first time. We haven't played Manassas Park in a couple years, so you're always basing how you play on what you've done in the past against that team. I think that affected our game a bit. Manassas Park definitely did play hard tonight. They came out and they hustled and I think that gave us a run for our money tonight."
Manassas Park held a three-point advantage early in the first set as senior Dejah Kerey served an ace to give the Cougars a 6-3 lead, but then the Wildcats began to show some life.
Warren County senior Brooke Post smashed a kill on an assist by sophomore Kylee Eyer that started a string of eight straight points for the Wildcats. Junior Arie Roth capped the run with three straight aces, forcing Manassas Park coach Rachelle McCracken to call a timeout with the Cougars trailing 11-6.
"I think we could've played a little bit better but we kind of stooped down to their level. But we got kills when we needed to. We did a good job," said Post, who finished the match with a co-team high seven kills. "We have a lot of energy and we just kept moving. We did what we needed to do."
Warren County continued the surge out of the break as junior Autumn Troxell (seven kills, three blocks) tallied three kills and a block to help extend the Wildcats' lead to 16-8, and Warren County rolled to the 25-12 win to claim the first set.
The Wildcats made sure to avoid another slow start in the second game as Eyer served up five aces in a 6-0 run to open the set for the Wildcats.
Serving was a strong point for most of the night for Warren County, as the Wildcats combined for 20 aces in the match.
"Serving is a really big part, because that is where you get most of your points," said Eyer, who finished with a match-high 10 aces. "You've got to keep continuing to get your serves in. When we practice we work on that, and being under pressure because I know pressure has a big part in serving."
Warren County led by as much as 11 points after another ace from Eyer later in the second set made the score 19-8, but Manassas Park was able to make the game interesting thanks to a little help from the Wildcats.
Warren County committed three straight errors to cut its lead to eight points, and a kill by Cougars junior Tiffany Herndon (team-high four kills, four aces) pulled Manassas Park within six and forced a timeout from Putnam.
Back-to-back kills by Tiffany Tran and Herndon pulled the Cougars within five with the Wildcats holding match point, but Troxell stroked a kill to give Warren County a 2-0 advantage.
"I feel that we did good overall, but I feel like we get down on ourselves. But we pick each other up and we do the best that we can," Eyer said. "I think we can do better, because our ability is better that what we showed tonight, but I think we'll keep building up as a team and get better as the season goes on."
Manassas Park kept things tight early in the third set as the Cougars trailed by just one after a Wildcats service error, but Warren County ended the match on a 16-5 run to seal the sweep.
Senior Crystal Utter and junior Alyssa Pauley contributed four kills apiece for the Wildcats in the match, while Roth served seven aces. Seven different players tallied at least a kill or an ace for Warren County on Tuesday.
"That's how I like the team to feel, and I like that that's how they play. Everybody contributing a point here and there, it's not just one girl," Putnam said.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD