By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- Sherando volleyball coach Chuck Ashby wasn't sure what to expect from his young squad going into its district match with powerful James Wood on Tuesday night. After the match Ashby had reason to feel good even in defeat.
For two sets the Warriors went toe-to-toe with the Colonels, but James Wood was able to respond when the pressure was on. The Colonels erased a six-point second set deficit on their way to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-16) win over the Warriors in Northwestern District action.
"James Wood is a good team," Ashby said. "We've been preparing to play well, and I think we did play well."
The first set was a real back and forth battle. The two teams combined for 18 kills and four blocks.
Neither team held more than a three-point lead until late in the set. Sherando led 20-19, but the Colonels (13-3, 1-0 Northwestern)) responded with six consecutive points, including two aces by Ashley Hillyard and a kill by Molly Tierney.
The Warriors jumped out to a lead quickly in the second set. Three kills by sophomore Kelsey Singhas helped Sherando take a 16-10 advantage.
"We came out a little flat tonight," James Wood coach Jill Couturiaux said. "We didn't come out with as much energy. We made a lot of mistakes in the first two sets. The bulk of our hitting errors came in the first two sets, and we just took a long time to get into a rhythm tonight. And Sherando took advantage of that, and they really put pressure on us as a team."
With their backs to the walls the Colonels responded. They slowly chipped away at the lead. Two kills by Hillyard and a kill by Lindsey Painter helped trim the lead to 22-20.
Then another kill by Painter tied the set at 22-22. A block by Sherando's Whitney Dellinger gave the Warriors a 25-23 edge.
Painter tied the set again with a kill, and an ace by James Wood's Allyson Iden and a kill by Emma Montgomery finished off the comeback.
"I don't think we wanted it to go four sets," Painter said of the comeback. "I think we lose focus a lot, and then we buckled down and came back."
The Colonels started out strong in the third set, and didn't let up.
Painter, who transferred from Strasburg this year, led the Colonels with 17 kills. Couturiaux said she's been a great addition to the team.
"There's a lot going on that's new for Lindsey -- a new team, a new high school, a new position," Couturiaux said. "She's always been a middle hitter. So, to go from the middle to the left side is a major transition, and it takes time. And right now she's progressing nicely. She's got a lot of pressure on her at the outside position, and that's pressure that she's not used to having as a middle hitter. So, I think she is doing a tremendous job for us, and we're lucky to have her."
Hillyard had nine kills for the Colonels, and Montgomery had three kills and four blocks.
The Warriors (6-6, 0-1) played solid defense throughout the match, and Ashby said he was very pleased with his team's defense.
Singhas led the Warriors with 10 kills, while freshman Mackenzie Cornwell had four kills and a block for Sherando. Michelle Baker added three kills and two blocks, and Dellinger had two kills and two blocks for the Warriors.
Ashby said he was very happy with how Singhas and Cornwell played.
"For our young outside hitters, who are really young, this was an eye opener. They played well," Ashby said. "I felt good and I felt like they're not fazed at all by this small gym and the crowd. I felt like this was going to be a true test for us."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd