By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson's volleyball team has shown exponential improvement in some of its weaker areas over the last few weeks.
But during Thursday's regular-season finale against Shenandoah District foe Page County, the Generals suddenly struggled at the point of attack, an aspect of their game that the Generals have been pretty solid at this season.
As a result, Stonewall wasn't able to muster much punch as the Panthers came away with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-19) sweep in the Generals' Dig Pink match.
"We didn't play horrible. We didn't play fantastic. The things we've been struggling with this season -- I felt that our serve receive was much better this evening, but for the first time this season we weren't able to produce up front. That's unusual," Generals coach Jamie Armentrout said. "We've had a pretty busy week the last two, and fatigue gets to you at the end of the season. There's a lot of hype and a lot of everything else, and it just gets to you."
Stonewall Jackson (2-14, 2-10 Shenandoah) managed just 21 kills as a team in the three sets, and the Generals simply couldn't seem to establish any kind of rhythm in their attack.
In all three sets, Stonewall found itself tight with Page County (9-9, 6-6) halfway through before the Panthers were able to pull away. Armentrout said that the pace of the match -- which seemed to drag along at times -- contributed to the Generals inability to generate enough offense to keep pace with the Panthers.
"I felt like this was an extremely slow paced game. It just wasn't fast paced and it wasn't moving back and forth," Armentrout said. "I just think that the lack of rhythm leaves us a little flat footed and not able to move as fast."
The Generals opened the match on a strong note, as sophomore Brittany Singleton tallied a kill and senior Megan Vresics served up a pair of aces to give Stonewall a 3-0 lead in the opening set. But Page County struck back with a 6-0 run that was fueled by two kills by senior Kayla Dean and two aces from junior Kara Comer.
Stonewall was able to stay close thanks to a few kills and some poor serving by Page County, but the Panthers ended the set on a 14-5 run and sealed the 25-15 first-set victory when Morgan Andrews served up her second ace of the game.
"It was one of those games where I think the girls played well enough to stay ahead," Panthers coach Jack Glover said. "We really missed way too many serves. Once we were able to get a good serving rhythm going then the rest of the team was able to fall into place and get some good attacks going."
The Generals opened the second set much like the first, as a kill and two straight blocks by Singleton helped Stonewall to a quick 7-2 lead. Stonewall led until a kill by Page County's Alexa Wolf tied the set at 12-all.
Back-to-back kills by Allison Singleton and Desirae Blank gave Stonewall a 17-15 lead later in the set, but the Panthers closed out the game on a 10-1 run to win the set and take a 2-0 lead.
Dean and Wolf each had four kills in the set to go along with three more kills by Celia Dean. That trio led the Panthers all night, finishing with 25 combined kills, including 10 from Celia Dean.
"We have many good players that hit left, middle and right side," Glover said. "We don't have one or two go-to players. It's just a matter of which situation presents itself and that's where we try to go."
Stonewall again kept things close through the first part of the third set, as an ace from Blank was sandwiched between a pair of kills by Cheyenne Crigger to cut Page County's lead to 10-9. But a handful of Panther kills and two aces by Kayla Dean pushed the Panthers' lead to 19-11, and Stonewall was unable to recover.
Allison Singleton led the Generals with five kills, and Crigger tallied four kills for Stonewall. Brittany Singleton contributed three kills and two blocks.
Stonewall will be the sixth seed in next week's Conference 35 tournament and will travel to George Mason for the first round on Tuesday. Page County, the fourth seed, will host Strasburg.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD