By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- It was all going so well for Massanutten Military Academy's volleyball team against Highland View Academy (Md.) on Thursday afternoon.
The Colonels, behind the sharp serving of standout Selah Applin, were rolling in the opening set against the Tartans. MMA won that one easily, but then saw something strange when they returned to the court for the second set. The uniforms were the same, but the faces were completely different.
Highland View coach Derek Boyce had planned it that way, starting his reserves for the opening set before bringing in the starters for the rest of the match. The Tartans promptly responded by winning the next three sets for a 3-1 (13-25, 25-12, 25-17, 25-10) victory. It was the Tartans' second victory this season, and both have come against the Colonels.
"I was giving them some playing time, and trying to motivate the people that play a little bit more," Boyce said. "I didn't remember which team we were playing because I have a horrible memory. I was just going to play them no matter who we were playing."
MMA (1-6) had trouble adjusting to the drastic change in their opponent. The Colonels dominated the Tartans' erstwhile reserves in the opening set, and Applin was the main reason. The senior served up six of her match-high nine aces during that set, and teammate Chelsea Reid chipped in a kill, a block and an ace to provide support.
Applin is playing for her third head volleyball coach at MMA this season under first-year coach Andrew Montague, and admits it has been a learning process.
"Our team, a lot of them are in their first year, and we've gotten a lot better since the beginning," Applin said.
Highland View was better, starting in that second set. Jade Draper served up three straight aces during her service run to help the Tartans grab a 7-3 lead. Reid helped rally the Colonels back to within 8-7 with a kill and an ace, but Highland View started pulling away from there. The Tartans recorded seven more points off aces in the set, with Draper closing it out with three more during her service run.
"They brought enough to take it to us, really," Montague said. "It was really weird to see, really different seeing two different sides of their team. I think it really caught us by surprise."
Montague liked what he saw from his starting group once they took the floor.
"I think it definitely motivated the people who get a little more playing time," Boyce said. "They seemed fresh and excited."
MMA pulled it together in the third set, shaking off a slow start to get back within three at 19-16. The Colonels didn't get much closer, as the Tartans' Andrea Reginado capped a four-point service run with an ace to help her team close out the win.
Highland View used that familiar formula -- scoring points in bunches off aces -- to close out the match in four sets. Sarah Roberts did the most damage with four aces, including three straight to finish it off. The Tartans finished with 25 aces while MMA had 15 as neither squad handled serve-receive particularly well.
"Our serving was plaguing us a little bit at the beginning of the season, but it was definitely better this game," Boyce said. "Sarah Roberts, one of our setters, and then Jade Draper, one of our captains, are really good servers."
Montague is hoping Applin will start getting a bit more support from some of her teammates. Until that happens, the disappointing results will likely continue for the Colonels.
"She's the backbone of the team," Montague said. "It's hard when the rest of the team is starting to fall apart and she can't really do it on her own. Somebody else has to step up, plain and simple. You can't expect one person to do it all for you."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>. Follow on Twitter @J_NationsNVD