Wildcats fend off Falcons for sweep

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County junior Jayme Goode offered an interesting analogy regarding the Wildcats volleyball team following its home match against Central on Thursday evening.

“We play like Michael Phelps swims,” Goode said. “That’s why he’s the champion — he starts off slow and finishes strong. That’s how we always play our games.”

Warren County did indeed fall behind early to an energetic Falcons squad on Thursday, but much like the 18-time Olympic gold medalist, the Wildcats ultimately found themselves on top with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-10) sweep.

Though the Falcons (1-10) were swept for the eighth time in 11 matches this season, the final score wasn’t entirely indicative of Central’s performance. The Falcons forced Warren County (7-3) to rally on multiple occasions, and Central even bolted out to a 14-6 lead in the opening game before the Wildcats answered.

“That’s the most energy and intensity that we’ve had in a long time,” Falcons coach Christy Barb said.

“We had a heart-to-heart and realized that now we need to turn it up and we need to keep it up. We’re now on the down slope. We’ve played everybody [in the Bull Run District] and we know how everybody plays, and we need to walk into every gym thinking that we’re just as good as that team that’s on the court.”

Central looked like the more energetic team early in the match, as the Falcons turned a 6-3 deficit into a 14-6 lead with an 11-0 run. Falcons senior Morgan Davis jump-started the rally with a kill and back-to-back aces to tie the set at 6-all, and junior Savannah Gochenour kept the momentum rolling with four kills and two blocks in a seven-point span during the run.

“They were aggressive tonight,” Barb said. “They didn’t want the ball to hit the floor and that’s what we’ve talked about since day one. The only time the ball hits the floor is when it’s out. Tonight I feel like their coverage — and we blocked and dropped, which we’ve been working on that every practice — it’s all coming. So it’s nice to see.”

Staying true to form, Warren County recovered from the early deficit with a 10-2 run that tied the set at 16-all. Goode notched two kills and an ace during the run, while Hannah Wilson served an ace and Arie Roth and Amanda Kresge each scored kills.

Central reclaimed an 18-16 lead on back-to-back kills by Caelyn Moylan and Davis, but Warren County’s Autumn Troxell answered with a kill and two Falcons errors gave the Wildcats the lead. Troxell sealed the 25-20 win with her only ace of the night.

“Central definitely came out ready to play tonight,” Wildcats coach Sarah Putnam said. “We had a couple different lineups there between the first game and the second game that I think contributed to our uneasiness a little bit, but we were able to gain control.”

Warren County staked an early 10-6 lead in the second set, but Central rallied with a 7-0 run — powered by a kill and a block by Moylan — to take a 13-10 lead. The two teams fought closely throughout the middle of the game before the Falcons appeared to seize some late momentum when Davis served up back-to-back aces and Gochenour delivered two straight kills to give Central a 23-20 lead.

But the Wildcats again had an answer. Junior Michaela Berry found a hole in Central’s defense with a two-handed push for a point, and Troxell smashed her third kill of the set to pull Warren County within one.

Wildcats senior Alyssa Pauley then reeled off three straight aces to give Warren County the 25-23 win and a 2-0 lead.

“That’s something that this team has done since game one. We get behind by a few points and then we rally behind each other,” Putnam said. “We stick together and we just buckle down and focus.”

Warren County made sure it wouldn’t need to rally in the third set, as the Wildcats opened the game on a 12-3 run and cruised to a 25-10 victory.

“I think we just realized that they’ve really improved as a team and that we needed to step up our game a little bit,” Goode said.

“I think we just played our hardest tonight and that’s what really helped us. We’ve just got to play our hardest and we can do a lot.”

Troxell led Warren County with a match-high 13 kills and two blocks, while Goode had eight kills and Roth two kills and four aces for the Wildcats.

Gochenour led Central with eight kills and two blocks, Davis had five kills and four aces and Moylan finished with six kills and three blocks.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 182, or bfauber@nvdaily.com