Rams sharp in sweep of rival Falcons

By Brad Fauber

WOODSTOCK — Strasburg’s volleyball team focused on getting the small things right in practice leading up to Tuesday’s match against Central. That emphasis seemed to pay off.

The Rams, coming off back-to-back losses in sweeps to tough Bull Run District competition, looked sharp on the road against the Falcons. The result was a 3-0 (25-11, 25-18, 25-21) win that sealed a regular-season sweep of their county rivals.

“They came ready to play,” Rams coach Suzanne Mathias said. “I’ve been preaching little things in practice and they did them. It’s a whole different team when I can get them to move and do the little things, and help each other out and play as a team. I was pleased. I thought we attacked well. Serves, still kind of missed some here and there that I didn’t want but I’ll take it.”

Strasburg (7-6) was solid in all phases on Tuesday, but the Rams’ attack was particularly effective behind the play of senior hitter Hannah Keane. The 5-foot-10 Keane finished with a match-high 13 kills to lead a Strasburg offense that smashed 31 total kills in the victory.

“Hannah had a good night,” Mathias said. “She was hitting around the block, through the block, down the line. I thought this was one of the better games for her as far being smart on the court.”

The Rams got started quickly against Central (1-11), as they opened up the first set of the match with a 7-0 run that included a six-point service run by senior Christian Hepner. That hot start fueled Strasburg throughout the opening game, and the Rams led by double-digits for most of the set before sealing the 25-11 win on kill by senior Kerigan Jenkins.

“We came out big,” said Keane, who notched at least four kills in each of the three sets. “We were just so hyped. We’re always hyped when we play Central. … It doesn’t matter how good they are, they always come out scrappy, so we always have to bring it, too.

“Volleyball is all about momentum and we kept the momentum the whole time.”

Central, which was playing without senior leader Morgan Davis, who broke her ankle during a powder puff football game Monday as part of the school’s Homecoming week festivities, settled down after the first set.

The Rams jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set behind two kills apiece from Keane and junior Carey Scott, but the Falcons rallied to take a 7-6 lead when junior Cianne Fields (four aces, three kills) served up three aces in a four-point span.

Strasburg immediately reclaimed the lead on back-to-back Central errors, however, and kept the lead for good for the rest of the night. A pair of aces by Hepner sandwiched a Keane kill to extend the Rams’ lead to 17-10 midway through the second set, and two straight kills by junior Emily Alexander (four kills) gave Strasburg a 20-12 lead.

The Falcons cut Strasburg’s lead to 21-18 following a block by Savannah Gochenour and another ace by Fields, but two Central errors, a Haley Copeland ace and a kill by Miley Hupp gave the Rams a 25-18 win and a 2-0 lead.

“I think that we started to realize that we could play without [Davis] being here. We could still put the bump and the sets and the spikes,” Falcons coach Christy Barb said. “But we hurt ourselves with hitting and not talking. … If we don’t talk, we don’t move.”

Three kills by Keane helped give Strasburg a 10-3 lead to open the third set, but the Falcons were able to eventually cut the lead to 14-12.

The Rams again extended the lead, taking a 21-13 lead on three straight kills by Keane, Alexander and Hepner before a block and two kills by Gochenour (five total kills, two blocks) helped Central pull within 23-20.

Hepner, who finished with five aces and seven kills for the Rams, sealed the sweep with two kills in a three-point span.

“I felt like we were pretty solid tonight,” Keane said. “… We covered the shorts. We covered the deeps. They were hitting out a lot, but we always followed the ball and went to the line.

“It’s just setting us on a good track for Madison [County] on Thursday,” she added. “I’m excited.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com