By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- A lot was on the line for Warren County on Tuesday night in its volleyball match with Rappahannock County. The two teams were battling for third place in the Bull Run District, and it was Senior Night for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats rallied from a deficit in the third set and pulled out a 3-1 (25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17) win over the Panthers. The win secures at least a tie for third place for the Wildcats, and gives the team a home game in next week's Bull Run District tournament quarterfinals.
"I thought we played as a team," Warren County coach Sarah Putnam said. "It was Senior Night and I thought the girls came out and played with a lot of emotion and get a win in that first set."
The Wildcats (10-8, 10-6 Bull Run) used a balanced attack to take the opening set, with five different players having kills. The Wildcats had the lead throughout most of the set, and a kill each by Arie Roth and Brooke Post helped them take a 20-16 lead. A kill each by Abby Wilson and Autumn Troxell helped finish it off.
The Panthers came out strong in the second set, and built a quick four-point lead. The Wildcats were able to get back in the set. Back-to-back aces by senior Brooke Post gave the Wildcats a 22-21 edge. A kill by Rappahannock's Kaitlyn Jenkins tied the set at 22-22. Troxell followed with a kill, but the Panthers won the next three points. A kill by Jenkins sealed the set.
The Panthers (14-7, 8-7) started off strong again in the third set. Two kills and a block by Jenkins and a kill by Julia Estes helped give the Panthers an 11-4 lead.
Two kills and a block by Troxell keyed a 6-1 run by the Wildcats. The Panthers eventually extended the lead to six, before the Wildcats would rally again.
Two kills and a block by Post, and a kill and a block by Troxell were part of a 12-3 run by the Wildcats to surge in front 23-20.
A kill by Post gave the Wildcats a 24-22 lead, and two points later a Panther error sealed the third set for Warren County.
"I think we came out a little flat at the start of the third set," Putnam said. "We were able to come together as a team and pick ourselves up and get the win."
The Wildcats started off strong in the fourth set, riding the momentum from the third set. The Panthers were able to tie the set at 8-8, but the Wildcats were able to pull away for good. Warren County never trailed in the fourth set.
Two kills each by Troxell and Alyssa Pauley helped the Wildcats pull away for good.
Putnam said she was very pleased with the way her team moved against a good defensive team.
"We were really good at moving and staying on our toes," Putnam said. 'They moved really well, and that forced us to have to have good movement as well."
It was the last regular season home match for Post, Valerie Hutzell and Crystal Utter. Putnam said the trio has meant a lot to the team.
"They're a great group of seniors," Putnam said. "We are very fortunate to have them on the team. The seniors have really led the team. I hope that they know that we will miss them dearly, and that they will always be welcome back here."
The Panthers were led by Jenkins with seven kills and two blocks, and Maddie Kopjanski with five kills and one block.
Warren County was led by Troxell with 15 kills and two blocks, and Post with eight kills and a block. Arie Roth had six kills, and Pauley had five kills for the Wildcats.
Putnam said she's very proud of how her team performed in their first year in the Bull Run District, especially earning a tournament home game.
"To be in our first year in the Bull Run District and get a first round home game is huge," Putnam said. "The players and the coaching staff are very excited about this opportunity. We know we have our work cut out for us, but hopefully we'll work hard and do well."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd