Baker, Singhas are key in sweep

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

STEPHENS CITY — All Michelle Baker could do was sit and watch.

The 6-foot-1 Sherando senior hitter was on the bench waiting for her turn to come back in on the front row, as her teammates were struggling. Handley continued to build a lead until finally Baker came back in, and slowly but surely things began to turn around.

The Warriors used a furious rally in the third set to take a 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-23) win over the Judges in Northwestern District volleyball action on Thursday.

“That was terrifying,” Baker said of watching her team fall behind. “I knew we would pull through, but it’s like the sinking feeling that you can’t do anything since you’re sitting on the bench, but I trust the girls that are out on the floor when I’m not. So I knew they would be able to pull through.”

Handley took a quick 7-0 lead, helped by three kills from Alexis Zygmunt. The two teams traded points until Baker came back in with Sherando down 13-6.

The Judges were able to push the lead to eight a few times, but then Baker and junior hitter Kelsey Singhas began to take over. Baker had three kills in a stretch of four points to cut the lead to 16-9.

Singhas had two kills during another four-point stretch as the Warriors finally chipped the lead to 17-13.

“I was getting a little worried at the beginning, and then we just stepped it up,” Singhas said. “It was the third set. We had to win. We didn’t want to go to a fourth set.”

Baker said she was trying to keep everybody upbeat on the front row, while senior libero Erica Scully did the same on the back row. The Warriors had cut the lead down, but still had an uphill climb as Handley eventually took a 20-14 edge.

The Warriors (9-9, 5-3 Northwestern) fought back again as sophomore Abigail Henderson had a kill and a service ace by Singhas helped close the gap to 21-19.

Trailing 22-19, Baker knocked home three points in a row on two blocks and a kill to tie the set for the first time at 22-22.

“Getting the ball to Michelle was huge right there at the end, one right after another,” Sherando coach James Minney said. “It just helped us out tremendously.”

A Handley error gave Sherando its first lead of the set, but a kill by Handley’s Emily Snow tied the set at 23-23. Baker then notched another kill to give the Warriors a 24-23 lead. On the final point, Sherando junior setter Kelsie Utz’s set to Singhas was a little off the mark, but Singhas adjusted and tipped it over to an empty spot on the floor to complete the comeback.

“It was kind of lucky because I got my left hand up just in time,” Singhas said. “It felt good to see it go in.”

“That last set by Kelsie [Utz], she set it a little long, but that was smart because they were waiting for Michelle [Baker] to hit that ball,” Minney said. “To set it to the other side was a very smart play.”

Baker said winning the match the way they did was great for the team, which was trying to bounce back from being swept by Millbrook on Tuesday.

“I loved it. It was so great,” Baker said. “We all just kind of came together at the end. We didn’t want to go four with Handley. We all just came together. The passes were there, the sets were there and our front row was doing really well, so we all just kind of clicked.

The Warriors are also trying to adjust to a new lineup. Sherando has used two setters — Utz and Kelsea Wilkins — all season, but Wilkins suffered a season-ending foot injury this past weekend. Sherando has switched to a one-setter rotation.

“Kelsie sets for everyone, so we’re all used to her sets,” Baker said. “It’s just learning the new rotation, being without Wilkins. We’re coming back, we’re figuring it out, but it’s going to take a little while.”

Zygmunt had seven kills to lead Handley, while Jada Wilson added five kills.

Baker finished with 12 kills and three blocks, and Singhas had 12 kills and a block. The two combined for nine kills and two blocks during Sherando’s third-set rally. Junior Andrea Smelser had four kills and two blocks, and Henderson had two kills for the Warriors.

Sherando has two non-district matches left next week against Woodgrove and Washington (W.Va.). Baker said she feels good about the direction the team is taking.

“The win tonight will help a lot, I think, because that Millbrook game kind of got us down,” Baker said. “But tonight’s win, I think, will help us carry along through next week and the rest of the games.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com