Rams get sweep of Cougars

By Jim Laise – sports@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG — Holding a commanding two sets-to-none advantage, things got a bit uncomfortable for Strasburg’s volleyball team as the Rams attempted to swipe a 3-0 shutout Thursday against Manassas Park.

Having put away the visiting Cougars without allowing more than 11 points in the first two sets, the Rams (25-8, 25-11, 25-18) found themselves trailing 11-10 in the third set.

That was when Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias called on one of her captains to overcome Manassas Park and put the match into the Rams’ win column.

That senior Christian Hepner did. Hepner served the ball five times in a row against the smaller, younger Cougars, and when her string was done, the score was 14-12 Rams on their way to a 3-0 sweep over their Bull Run District rival.

“Consistency in our serves is something we’ve been working on and tonight we were serving well,” said Mathias.

“She told me it was time to come in there and earn us some points,” said Hepner, who seems to relish the role.

With Hepner scoring four aces and teammate Haley Copeland turning in five, Strasburg (3-3 Bull Run District, 5-3 overall) made sure to get the shutout.

Manassas Park (0-4, 1-5) refused to go away in set three, so even after Hepner’s six serves had put the Rams ahead 14-12, the Cougars trailed 18-16 when it was Copeland’s serve.

On her service, the Rams scored four times and with a Cougar fault eased back into 23-16 lead before winning 25-18.

“When we’re ahead like that, I tell the players to stay focused and we work on the little things,” said Mathias, “our passing, our set-ups and our attack.”

“I knew it would be good to set up Emily Alexander tonight because she was on fire. I knew with Emily scoring, and Dakota Funkhouser working hard, we could roll,” Hepner said.

Alexander registered four kills on the night, while McKenzie Stickley picked up three spikes for the winners.

“When I’m serving I try to find a spot that provides an opening,” said Hepner. “We were really excited about the ‘Mountain’ and we wanted to play up to their standards. They pushed us ahead.”

The senior was speaking about the name assigned to a mass of students who seat themselves in the middle bleachers on the home side in order to rally their team. Made up mainly of male students, the section stood throughout the game and cheered. The match had been designated USA Night in memory of those who lost their lives and those who responded first to the 9/11 tragedy on this anniversary. Many Mountain members wore red, white and blue costumes and they waved an American flag.

To help celebrate USA Night, some nine members of the Strasburg police department, fire department and rescue squad were introduced.

“They were really good tonight, really into it. It helps,” Mathias said of the cheer group.