Colonels too much for Warriors

By Brad Fauber

STEPHENS CITY — Sherando volleyball coach James Minney was fairly pleased with how the Warriors competed against Northwestern District powerhouse James Wood in the first two sets of Tuesday’s match. The third game, not so much.

The Colonels used a powerful offensive attack to fend off host Sherando in the first two sets, then picked apart the Warriors’ defense in the third game to complete the 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-9) sweep of their district rivals for the second time this season.

“I thought we did pretty well the first two sets. Could’ve done a little better, made some stupid mistakes,” Minney said. “Third set, that was horrible. I don’t know if they just gave up. I don’t know what happened out there. That was embarrassing for us. We’re not like that.”

James Wood (17-1), a Group 4A state semifinalist last season, demonstrated a potent offense that featured plenty of balance on Tuesday night. Nine different Colonels notched at least one kill in the sweep, led by senior Katie Houser’s 15 kills.

“I was happy. I mean, I feel like there’s always work to be done so I definitely saw some things tonight that we need to work on,” Colonels coach Jill Couturiaux said. “I thought that offensively we were hitting some shots that we had been working on. I’m pleased about that, that we’re transferring what we’re doing in practice into the match offensively.”

The Colonels rode that offense — plus five Sherando (7-9) errors — to an early 11-5 lead in the first set, but the Warriors rallied to cut the deficit to 17-15 later in the set thanks to eight James Wood errors during the run.

James Wood immediately extended the lead to 22-15 after three straight Sherando errors and back-to-back kills by Houser and Ashley Hillyard, and Houser capped the 25-18 victory for James Wood with a kill and an ace.

“We just weren’t together today,” Warriors senior Michelle Baker said. “They played just as well as they did last game, so I think we should’ve been able to keep up with them but we just didn’t have it tonight.”

Sherando managed just three kills in the opening set and finished with 20 kills as a team in the three games. Junior Kelsey Singhas led the Warriors with nine kills, while Baker had eight kills and three blocks.

“We didn’t run a smart offense tonight,” Minney said. “We were setting balls and hitting balls where we shouldn’t be hitting them or where we shouldn’t be setting them.”

The Warriors’ offense did get rolling in the second set, as Sherando smashed 12 total kills in the frame, led by Singhas and Baker, who tallied five and four kills, respectively.

That offense was enough to keep the Warriors within striking distance for most of the set. Singhas’ kill off a tip tied the set at 14-all, but Houser answered with a kill to start a 6-1 James Wood run that gave the Colonels a 20-15 lead. James Wood coasted the rest of the way for the 25-19 win to take a 2-0 lead.

“I think we played better defense the first 15, 16 points of each set and stayed with them but … I think when they start running four or five points on you then we just give up or let down,” Minney said.

Houser took over the match in the third set, as she opened the game with five kills and a six-point service run that included two aces to boost the Colonels to a 14-3 lead. That comfortable margin was enough to allow James Wood to substitute liberally over the final half of the game on its way to the 25-9 win.

“She came out blasting the ball. We had the same girls in there and just didn’t react to it,” Minney said of Houser.

“I think we frustrated her a little bit,” he added, “blocked a couple and kept them a little bit on defense where they couldn’t get good sets out to her. I think that’s a correlation with the early parts of the two sets.”

Ashley Hillyard finished with nine kills and 20 assists for James Wood, while Megan Hillyard had 22 assists and Allyson Iden 24 digs to lead the Colonels.

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