Team effort helps Sherando top Millbrook

By Brad Fauber

STEPHENS CITY — Perhaps it was for the simple fact that Sherando’s volleyball team was hosting Northwestern District rival Millbrook, but the Warriors looked especially sharp on the court Thursday evening.

Sherando started fast against the Pioneers and rode that early momentum to a 3-1 (25-15, 25-8, 20-25, 25-19) win, all the while piecing together one of its most complete matches this season.

“We played more like a team tonight than we have the last three games, which has hurt us but we made for it this game,” Warriors senior Michelle Baker said. “I’m really proud of my team. I think [Millbrook] played really well. They brought their game, too.”

The Warriors’ offensive attack got things rolling quickly in the opening set, as Baker and junior Kelsey Singhas combined to smash six kills to help Sherando (7-8) to a 13-7 lead.

Millbrook briefly pulled within three points after a 4-0 Pioneers run cut Sherando’s lead to 16-13, but the Warriors closed out the victory with a 9-2 run that was capped by Melissa Gaudette’s block.

Singhas and Baker combined for nine kills in the first set and paved the way for a Sherando team that combined for 39 kills, 16 aces and 11 blocks over the four sets.

“Since it was a school rival we were kind of looking forward to this game, so we were all pumped up and stuff,” said Baker, who finished with a match-high 13 kills and three blocks. “We just talked all the time. We just seemed to know where everybody was going. It was a big team effort.”

Sherando’s service game kept the momentum rolling in the second game, as the Warriors served up eight aces in the set, including seven in the game’s first 15 points.

Warriors junior Kelsea Utz tallied back-to-back aces to give Sherando a 3-0 lead, but Millbrook’s Ashley Humphrey notched two straight kills to pull the Pioneers within one. Sherando’s Alaina Paige responded with a kill, and an ace by Erica Scully gave the Warriors a 6-2 lead.

Singhas took over the game at the service line a few points later, serving four aces in a five-point span to give Sherando a 12-3 lead.

“I just started jump serving, so I guess getting a couple aces built up the momentum through the game and it just made us hype,” said Singhas, who had six aces in the match to go along with 11 kills.

The Pioneers cut the deficit to five points following back-to-back kills by Taylor Linder, an ace by Cheyenne Jankiewicz and a block by Emily Cleveland, but Millbrook continued to struggle with serve receive throughout the set and Sherando closed out the 25-8 win with a 10-0 run.

“I think we were a little slow on the serve receive, and slow on our coverage, too. That kind of made for our errors,” Pioneers coach Ashley Sutphin said.

“It was just our lack of communication on those and maybe lack of confidence.”

Millbrook bounced back in the third set as the Pioneers’ offense came to life, notching 14 kills in the game via seven different players.

The Pioneers broke an 11-11 tie in the set on an ace by Brooke Goodwin, and Millbrook’s lead reached four points on a kill by Jankiewicz. An ace by Utz and a Millbrook error pulled Sherando within a point, but the Pioneers got three straight kills by Jankiewicz, Humphrey and Imani Major to take an 18-14 lead.

Millbrook maintained at least a three-point cushion the rest of the set and avoided the sweep when Linder’s kill sealed the 25-20 victory.

“The third set they put us on defense and any team struggles when you’re on defense the whole time,” Warriors coach James Minney said.

Sherando bounced back in the fourth set, as the Warriors turned a two-point lead into a 20-12 advantage with a 9-3 run. Baker had two kills and a block during the spurt.

Millbrook rallied to cut the Warriors’ lead to 22-19, but a Sherando block, a kill by Gaudette and a double block by Gaudette and Anna Haycocks gave the Warriors the 25-19 match-clinching win.

“We played well all four sets,” Minney said. “They came through in the third and beat us and they played well. They played well off and on against us. … They’re a much better team than that and I think they struggled a little bit early on for whatever reason. But they’re a good team and I really thought they’d come in and what they did was they matched up with us really well. It wasn’t easy for us at all.

“I thought we played well and meshed well as a team tonight,” he added. “That’s probably the first time we’ve done that for four sets.”

Utz had five aces and 14 assists for Sherando, while Kelsea Wilkins had 12 assists for the Warriors.

Major led Millbrook with 10 kills, Linder had nine kills and Humphrey — who left the match after rolling her ankle midway through the third set — had six kills and three blocks for the Pioneers.

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