By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline senior libero Megan Reinhardt couldn't let Warren County win Thursday night's non-district volleyball match. Not with a regular season sweep of the Hawks' cross-town rivals on the line, and certainly not on Skyline's Senior Night.
So when Reinhardt stepped to the service line with the Hawks up by one point in the decisive fifth set, the senior delivered. Reinhardt served three straight aces, including the match's final point, to vault Skyline to a thrilling 3-2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-11) victory.
"I can't even describe how important it was, really," Reinhardt said of the win. "We've been wanting this win so bad, and I just think with the rivalry game, Senior Night, there was just a lot of emotion. I'm just glad that we came out with the win."
It was all but apparent from the opening serve on Thursday that the match was destined to go the full five sets, as the two teams alternated victories in the first four games to set up the final set.
Warren County, fresh off a 25-22 win in the fourth set that tied the match at 2-2, jumped out to an early 6-3 lead in the fifth set behind two kills by junior Autumn Troxell.
Skyline coach Lesley Detweiler called a timeout in an attempt to cool off the Wildcats, and the Hawks rallied out of the break to take a 7-6 lead on a kill by senior Jenny Norman.
The Hawks (7-9) held the lead until two straight Skyline errors tied the game at 11-all, but a kill by Reinhardt reclaimed a one-point lead for the Hawks. Reinhardt then stepped to the service line and delivered an ace on a low serve that was nearly dug out on a diving attempt by Warren County libero Emma Wright.
Reinhardt's next serve landed just inside the back line for another ace, and her final serve was shanked on the return by Warren County and went out of bounds, sealing the victory for Skyline.
"I was really nervous, but I have confidence in myself to get it over. That's all I had to. I guess it worked," said Reinhardt, who led the Hawks with nine aces. "I was trying to go short and then long, hitting the different spots that were open."
The win stopped a five-game losing skid for the Hawks, and the season sweep over the Wildcats provided Skyline with a reason to celebrate during a season that has had plenty of ups and downs.
Detweiler attributed Skyline's success over Warren County (11-10) as a result of the emotional rivalry between the two schools.
"I think it's a lot of that emotion that comes out that we're not willing to let the ball hit the floor," Detweiler said.
Things started out rather sloppy for both sides in the first set, as the teams combined for 27 errors. The Wildcats were able to rally from five-point deficits twice in the set, but two straight attack errors by Warren County gave Skyline the early victory and a 1-0 lead.
Warren County answered in the second game, as Troxell came alive for seven kills and two blocks in the set to help the Wildcats even the score. Warren County closed the set on a 6-1 run that included three kills by Troxell.
"I think the girls played hard. They did a good job of rallying behind each other, and they hustled the whole game," Wildcats coach Sarah Putnam said. "I can't take that away from them. They worked hard."
Skyline reclaimed the match advantage in the third set with a 25-23 victory in which it rallied from being down three points late in the set. It was Reinhardt that jumpstarted the rally, as she served five straight points -- including two aces -- to give the Hawks a 24-22 lead. The Hawks won the set on a Wildcats service error.
"We would get that momentum and then we would lose it, but we were able to overcome that and ultimately we came out on top," said Norman, who led the Hawks with 17 kills.
Warren County rallied again with a win in the fourth set behind seven more kills by Troxell, who led all players with 23 kills on Thursday.
Detweiler said the biggest difference between Thursday's match and some of Skyline's other games this season was the ability of the Hawks to shake off its mistakes.
"Tonight I really commend the girls. They didn't have that big drop. It was like we would have a little drop and then we would get right back into it. That really helped us," Detweiler said.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com