By Jim Laise -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Volleyball is a game of momentum, according to John Champe coach Glen Gragasin, and he should know. The Knights (8-13) used it to their advantage Monday night in taking a 3A East Conference 28 quarterfinal match victory over Skyline, 3-0.
It was the second time the Knights had shut out the Hawks (8-10), withholding a set from the latter. The first victory came by an identical score on Sept. 11 at the Aldie school.
"That's volleyball," Gragasin said after his team tripped Skyline 26-24, 25-17 and 25-22, "it's a game of momentum. Who has it, who loses it and who gets it back."
There was one point in the three-set match where it looked like Champe, which will take on Loudoun Valley in Purcellville Tuesday in the Conference 28 semis, would lose it, but to his team's credit, it quickly regained its footing on the Skyline Hawk gymnasium floor.
After taking John Champe to a third match point in the first set, the Hawks found themselves leading the Knights 14-9 in Set 2. It was then that Champe started a comeback it would ride into the third and deciding set.
After a Knight out-of-bounds shot kept the Hawks barely ahead 15-14, Skyline coach Lesley Detweiler had seen enough. Her team had been outscored 5-1 and she called a timeout.
"I just thought it was time," said Detweiler, whose team finished the season. "We had been on top and they were starting to catch back up. I just wanted to take a timeout and let our team catch its breath and reset itself. We tried to regain our momentum but we didn't help ourselves with the next four or five serves."
Ahead 17-14 out the timeout, the Hawks saw the Knights score eight straight points to go ahead 22-17. Champe extended that lead by an additional point to take the second set.
In the third set, Detweiler saw her team trailing 7-4 and again she called timeout to slow the momentum of the Aldie school.
John Champe, for the second straight set, kept coming. It headed Skyline 12-6 and 15-9 before Skyline mounted a final comeback.
"I have to give my girls credit because they fought back and didn't quit. Trailing 0-2 they could have, but they wouldn't," said Detweiler.
Behind 17-13, Skyline scored three straight points. Senior Lauren Moore scored a spike, Champe's Elizabeth Donovan knocked a shot out-of bounds and then Knight Samantha Plesce's shot fell innocently at the foot of the net.
It was 17-16, and this time it was Gragasin's turn to call timeout.
"I felt the momentum slip a little bit and I just wanted to calm the girls down a little and try to regain our momentum," Gragasin said.
The brief respite seemed to turn them around.
The Knights were at 24-18, at match point, when the Hawks decided to make it interesting again.
"You know, we knew that we were playing what might be our last match together and for the seniors [Shimp, Moore, Sarah Dodge, Megan Reinhardt and Jenny Norman] this could be the last time we could have ever played for our school," said Reinhardt.
Skyline fought off four straight match points until a shot by a Hawk fell gently into the net on the third hit to end the match.
"There's not much room for error at this point," said Norman.
"It takes a toll," added Reinhardt, "mentally and physically. But especially mentally."
"Overall, I think we had a lot of success this year. We beat Warren County twice and were able to beat Millbrook [on Oct. 30] to get where we were hosting a quarterfinal match," said Detweiler.
"I'd say beating Warren County twice was the highlight of our year," said Reinhardt.
"Those two matches, every girl came to play on every point. We were playing every point as if it were our last," added Norman, who also plays basketball for the Hawks.
Skyline won two of its final three regular-season matches before post-season began.
Norman, in her last outing, produced 18 kills for the Hawks. Reinhardt came through with 23 digs.
Sophomore Taylor Ziemer had five kills and seven digs, while Moore finished the match with four digs.