By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson first-year varsity volleyball coach Lindsey Dinges had a decision to make before the Generals' home match against Central on Tuesday evening.
Dinges, who had just given birth to her first child over the weekend, was torn between staying home with her newborn daughter on Tuesday night and being present to help guide Stonewall against the Falcons. Turns out, Dinges simply couldn't spend the evening wondering how her Generals were faring against their Shenandoah County rivals.
Dinges was sitting courtside with the rest of the Generals on Tuesday night, where she had a front-row seat to Stonewall Jackson's inspired 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-14) win over Central, marking a major first step for a program trying to rebound from a poor season a year ago.
"I just gave birth two days ago and I was like 'I'm not missing this game!' Dinges said following the victory. "I was like 'you better win!' And they did. They executed everything well. The second game, they had me a little on edge but they pulled it together, they started communicating better and I'm just really happy. It's a wonderful start to the season."
The Generals -- as well as parents and Stonewall Jackson faculty members -- were understandably surprised to see their head coach at the school prior to the match.
Dinges brought her newborn along to introduce her to the Stonewall volleyball players, which prompted the Generals to devote everything they had on Tuesday to picking up a win for their newest bundle of inspiration.
"It was amazing," Generals junior middle hitter Brittany Singleton said. "She just got married a couple years ago and she's been talking about having this baby forever. Then the fact that she just had the baby and she was so torn about showing up today, so she brought Rachel and we passed her around and we held her. It just gave us huge motivation to win for her."
The Generals (1-1) didn't disappoint.
Central (0-3) opened the first game of the match with a 4-1 lead behind a pair of aces from senior Caroline Truban before Stonewall knotted the score up at 4-all. Two straight kills by Falcons junior Savannah Gochenour (five kills) broke the tie, and an ace by libero Casey Rubenstein later in the set gave Central a 12-8 lead.
But Stonewall Jackson rallied behind an ace by junior Elizabeth Moomaw and a kill by Emily Ball, and back-to-back Central errors gave the Generals a 14-13 lead. Two aces by Stonewall junior Cheyenne Crigger sandwiched a kill by Singleton to extend the Generals' lead to four points, and that margin held for the remainder of the game as Madison Long's ace sealed the 25-20 opening victory for Stonewall.
"We came out flat and this is not the same volleyball team that played last week, obviously," Falcons coach Christy Barb said. "We couldn't pass and then what hurt us was our serves. We would only get one or two and then -- we didn't play smart volleyball."
The Falcons appeared to shake off the early struggles in the second set, as three aces by junior Nicole Baker and an ace and a kill by junior Dana Painter gave Central a quick 6-1 lead. Stonewall rallied back to tie the game at 7-all behind two kills from Singleton, but the Falcons pushed the lead to 18-10 behind two kills from senior Caelyn Moylan (five kills) and two aces each from Cianne Fields and Rubenstein.
Stonewall began chipping away at the deficit and cut the Falcons' lead to 22-19 following a kill by Long, and Central committed six straight errors -- one on an ace by Stonewall's Brooke Simpson -- to close out the set and hand the Generals a 25-23 win and a 2-0 lead.
"I'm really glad they won because they're the type of team where if they get down and they lose, then ... it takes them forever to get back into it," Dinges said. "I don't know where that came from, but we just told them they needed to pull it together. They were just giving away easy points and once we stopped giving away the easy points we pulled it together."
Stonewall took advantage of a dispirited Falcons squad in the third set, as the Generals opened up a 22-7 lead behind five aces from Moomaw (match-high seven aces) and two kills each from Singleton (match-high six kills) and Long.
Central rattled off six straight points while facing match point, but an attack error from the Falcons gave Stonewall Jackson the 25-14 win to seal the sweep.
"We've been in that position before, honestly. I don't like saying that, but we've been there before," Singleton said of the lopsided third game. "The fact that we were on the other end of putting other people down -- it sounds mean, but it felt awesome. Being able to have that power over them felt awesome."
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org