Strasburg serves its way past Generals

By Brad Fauber

STRASBURG — Suzanne Mathias has been preaching to her Strasburg volleyball team the importance of establishing a consistent serve. That message has apparently begun to sink in for the Rams.

Strasburg’s serves were on point for the second straight match when the Rams hosted county rival Stonewall Jackson on Monday evening. The result was a second consecutive sweep for the Rams, as they rolled to a 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-15) win over the Generals.

The Rams misfired on only two serves on Monday night — both in the match’s opening game — and finished with 12 aces. Mathias said Strasburg missed just one serve in last Thursday’s sweep of George Mason.

“We’ve worked really hard on it in practice and I told them, I said that’s the difference in keeping the momentum going on our side. I’m happy with that,” Mathias said.

Strasburg, a 3-1 winner over the Generals in the season opener for both squads two weeks ago, put that consistency at the service line to good use against Stonewall Jackson early on Monday.

The Rams (4-2) broke an 8-8 tie in the opening game on a Stonewall attacking error before using a five-point service run by Kelsey Jenkins to take a 14-8 lead. Senior Christian Hepner had a block and a kill, junior Emily Alexander tallied a kill and Jenkins stroked an ace during the 6-0 Strasburg run.

The Generals (1-2) cut the deficit to 14-11 following two Strasburg errors and an ace by sophomore Madison Long, but a kill and a block by Alexander and another block by Hannah Keane gave Strasburg a 17-11 lead. The Rams maintained a comfortable cushion for the remainder of the game and capped the 25-15 victory with an ace by Haley Copeland.

Stonewall Jackson coach Lindsey Dinges said the Generals did not communicate well on Monday night and didn’t resemble the team that beat rival Central a week ago. Dinges said part of that was due to a boisterous Strasburg student section.

Dinges claimed the Generals’ players were taunted about “personal things” throughout Monday’s match by the Rams’ student section, and Dinges and several Stonewall Jackson players were visibly upset after the match.

“They kept composure as best they could,” said Dinges, who was unhappy about the treatment the Generals received from some of the Strasburg High School students. “They stayed up and they didn’t get down on each other. I was proud of them because I expected them to just shut down. They still competed.”

Stonewall Jackson started strong in the second game, as two aces from junior Elizabeth Moomaw and two kills by junior Brittany Singleton gave the Generals an early 4-1 lead. An ace by senior Kaylin Miller gave Stonewall Jackson a 7-4 lead before Strasburg’s serving swung the momentum.

Rams senior Nikki Killen powered a 11-0 Strasburg run with a 10-point service run to put the Rams firmly in control up 18-7. Kerigan Jenkins and Keane each had two kills during the run, which also included three aces by Killen.

Killen, who suffered from shoulder problems last season that limited her ability to serve, said she simply gained more confidence as her service run continued on Monday.

“I kind of get more like, ‘OK, now I can relax a little bit because now I know I’m more comfortable with my serve.’ I can try to spot-serve more and see if I can actually get it to where I want it to go,” said Killen, who led the Rams with four aces.

Strasburg built its lead in the second game to 21-8 following another ace by Copeland, but the Generals scored nine of the next 11 points to cut the Rams’ lead to 23-17. The Rams finished off the second game with back-to-back kills by Miley Hupp and Keane.

Strasburg junior Carey Scott served up three aces to help the Rams to a 5-1 lead early in the third game, and the Rams maintained a lead of at least four points for the rest of the way. Kills by Kerigan Jenkins and Keane set up Strasburg at match point before Kerigan Jenkins sealed the sweep with her sixth kill of the match.

“Clearly we still have a lot of things to work on,” Dinges said. “It’s the beginning of the season. I’m still hopeful for them. It is a disappointment compared to the way they played against Strasburg the last time. I had nothing bad to say about the last time we played Strasburg and I still don’t. They still came out and played for me. They didn’t completely shut down, but it was a completely different team than what I saw last week.”

Keane delivered six kills for Strasburg to tie Kerigan Jenkins for the match lead, while Scott and Copeland finished with three aces each for the Rams. Alexander had four kills for Strasburg.

Singleton and Brooke Simpson each had four kills to lead Stonewall Jackson, while Cheyenne Crigger had three kills and an ace for the Generals. Moomaw had four aces for Stonewall.

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