Baker, Gaudette help pace Warriors
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER — Sherando volleyball coach James Minney knew the combination of senior Michelle Baker and sophomore Melissa Gaudette could be a powerful one, and on Thursday night Minney got exactly what he was hoping for from the pair of middle hitters.
The duo helped lead the Warriors to 16 blocks in a 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-20) win over rival Handley.
“Our blocking was really good,” Baker said. “Melissa Gaudette was doing really well.”
Gaudette was called up from the JV team last week, while Baker was out of town. So this week was the first one where the two have played together. The 6-foot-2 Baker and 6-foot-1 Gaudette take turns on the front, so they’re not on the front line at the same time, but they are very effective.
Baker finished with eight kills and six blocks, while Gaudette had five blocks, in only her fifth varsity game.
“I think definitely some of the blocking played a part in [the win],” Minney said. “They were trying to hit around us, over top of us and certainly with Melissa Gaudette and Michelle Baker up front that certainly helped out a lot. They did a good job. I think we took them out of their offense a little bit. When you have that kind of height up front it makes it hard to play against.
“We’re just kind of getting these two together and starting to gel, and things are working out better with that lineup right there.”
The Warriors (3-4) came out strong and played with a lot of energy from the beginning. Baker led the early charge with four kills and a block to help Sherando to a 12-5 lead.
Minney said they’ve started slow in some other matches, and talked about playing with energy before the game.
“We’ve worked on that. The last couple days we talked about the lack of energy on the floor,” Minney said. “We come out dead. We come out flat, so we worked hard in practice on talking and moving and I think that’s played off of it. They were buying into it and doing a good job with it.”
Baker said that the team really fed off of each other and the energy on the floor.
“I think the whole team was feeling it,” Baker said. “It’s just a lot of fun to play when we’re that loud.”
Things started off a little rocky in the second set as the Warriors fell behind 6-3 and trailed almost the whole set.
The Warriors were able to keep the set close, and took their first lead at 22-21 on a Handley error. A block by Gaudette and a kill by Mackenzie Cornwell gave Sherando a 24-21 edge. After a Sherando error, Warriors sophomore Alaina Paige finished things off with a kill.
“We couldn’t drop [the second set], because when you win the first game you can’t let down or you’ll lose the rest,” Baker said.
The Warriors trailed 12-10 in the third set before using a 7-1 spurt to pull away for good. Baker and Gaudette each had a block during the run, and Kelsey Singhas had two kills.
The Judges rallied with two kills each by Emily Snow and Alexis Zygmunt to cut the lead to 23-20. A block by Paige and a Handley error sealed the win.
“I feel like we played the best we’ve ever played,” Baker said.
Minney said the offense is finally coming together and the Warriors are playing their best volleyball right now.
“The defense has been solid all year, it’s just getting the young offense involved,” Minney said. “We have two junior setters who played JV last year. Getting them where they need to be and getting the hitters, Melissa Gaudette a sophomore, Alaina Paige only a sophomore. I think they’re doing a good job and coming together a little bit, and hopefully it will continue.”
The Judges (6-2) were led by Zygmunt with 11 kills and Snow with nine kills.
Singhas finished with seven kills and two blocks, and Audra Smelser had three kills and four blocks.
“A win against a good team like this is huge for us,” Minney said. “It’s going to build our confidence up and will give us some momentum going into Kettle Run [next week]. A lot of positives coming out of this. I think we’re doing pretty well if we can just stay with it.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd