Troxell leads Wildcats to win on Senior Night

By Jim Laise – sports@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL — Autumn Troxell finished off the regular season portion of one of the great volleyball careers in Warren County history Thursday by leading the Wildcats to a 3-0 sweep of crosstown rival Skyline before a full gym on her own court on Senior Night.

“Really, I wouldn’t have wanted to do this anywhere but Warren County,” Troxell said after she and two other seniors were introduced with their parents before the match. “It’s been everything I wanted here at this school.”

The scores were 25-16, 25-22 and 25-15 as Warren clipped Skyline for the second time this year.

Troxell and her team (14-7 overall, 4-2 conference) now prepare for the Bull Run District tournament, which they will open on their court Tuesday against an undetermined opponent.

Skyline (1-19 overall, 1-5 conference) has two regular-season matches left, after which it will participate in the Northwestern District tournament.

“Autumn has been with us for four years and I cannot say enough about her attitude toward the game, the team and herself,” Wildcats coach Sarah Putnam said. “Her sportsmanship has been outstanding. She has basketball and softball to go, too.”

Putnam’s team enters the Bull Run tournament on a three-match winning streak.

Troxell, middle-hitter Ari Roth and Alyssa Pauley all finished their final regular season together.

“I’ve had these girls since the eighth grade, and it’s been fun to watch them all grow up both on and off the court,” Putnam said. “Ari started with us in the middle of her sophomore year and, at first, she was a little timid at the net. She’s certainly overcome that. Alyssa knows what to say and when to say it. She’s been a big help to our team.”

The 6-foot-1 Troxell certainly made her presence felt competing before a crowd that included loud — but sportsmanlike — cheering sections.

The Wildcat student faithful was on its feet for the entire three-set match.

Troxell had match-highs in kills (13), aces (3) and blocks(5), and even if she missed a shot here or there, it seemed like every time the Wildcats needed points the senior was there.

“That’s something I’ve been working on since I started playing here,” Troxell said. “When it gets close, I know some of my teammates get nervous, so I try to keep my cool. It’s something I’ve done on the volleyball court, and it’s carried over into my other sports, too.”

Roth had two kills and Pauley accomplished three.

Meantime, though playing with grit, at points the Hawks seemed to be their own worst enemies.

“That’s what we’ve been working on. It seems like we get a point or two down — or tie the game — then we make some mistakes and fall back,” Skyline coach Erika Berry said.

Skyline, which played better than a one-victory team might be expected to, led early 1-0 in the first two sets before falling behind. Often it was Troxell who came on to score key points when the match got close.

The Wildcats seemed to be in control of the first set — leading by as many as six points — before the Hawks made it interesting in the first of the three sets.

“I thought Skyline played really well. It’s a rivalry game, so you might expect that, but they certainly hustled a lot and didn’t back down,” Putnam said.

Trailing 17-11, the Hawks scored four straight points in the first set to cut into the Wildcat lead by a score of 17-15.

Warren’s Putnam called timeout. Out of the break, Troxell blocked a Hawk shot and then on her serve, the Wildcats scored three consecutive points to lead 21-15.

In all, after time was called, Warren County outscored Skyline 8-1 for the first set victory.

The Wildcats came out aggressively in the second set, earning a 6-1 advantage before Berry called timeout.

The Wildcats led 12-8 when, once again, Skyline decided it would make a game of it in the second frame. The Hawks outscored the Wildcats 5-1 to tie the fracas at 13 on a Wildcat unforced error.

The match remained knotted at 15’s on a Warren County unforced error; 16’s on a Wildcat fault; 17’s on Wildcat Chelsey Butler’s kill; 18-all on the same by Skyline’s Michala Craig and, finally, 21-all, on an ace by Hawk Rebecca Thomas.

But led by their star fourth-year standout, the Wildcats pushed ahead.

Troxell wrapped two kills around a block by Skyline’s Tori Jo Brown to set the score at 23-22. An unforced error and another Troxell block gave the Wildcats the second set.

Warren couldn’t shake Skyline halfway through the deciding game. But ahead 15-14, the Wildcats watched the Hawks make consecutive unforced errors. Then Troxellhad another ace, and yet another offensive miscue by the Hawks gave the Wildcats the 19-14 lead.

After a timeout, Warren County finished off its foe, outscoring the Hawks 6-1 the rest of the way.

Putnam said that at the outset of the season, the team made long-range and immediate goals.

“Since then we’ve pretty much played them one game at a time,” Troxell said.

Last season, the Wildcats went out in the second round of the Bull Run tournament, then got beat in the first round of the conference tourney.

“We’re definitely hoping to achieve our goals right now. The team is the thing as we close out the season,” Troxell said.

Brown and Craig notched three kills apiece for Skyline. Celina Pearman had three blocks playing against the taller Warren County front line. Carrie Robinson and Brown chipped in with two blocks apiece for the Hawks.