Wildcats roll past Panthers

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County’s offensive attack simply needed a few moments to get going on Tuesday evening. And when it did, there wasn’t much visiting Rappahannock County could do to slow the Wildcats down.

The third-seeded Wildcats shook off a sloppy start in Tuesday’s quarterfinal match of the Bull Run District tournament and rolled to a 3-1 (20-25, 25-13, 25-18, 25-11) win over the No. 6 Panthers. The victory advances Warren County to Thursday’s semifinal round, where they will face second-seeded William Monroe at 6 p.m. at Madison County High School.

“We definitely came out slow and once we realized it was starting to go downhill we got our game together and started to fight back,” Wildcats senior Autumn Troxell said. “I thought we played pretty well tonight.”

Warren County put together a complete team effort in the win, as six different players combined for 48 total kills for the Wildcats. Troxell led the attack with a match-high 23 kills, while Alyssa Pauley had eight kills, Michayla Bacon had six, Jayme Goode five and Arie Roth four.

Junior setter Chelsey Butler had 37 assists for Warren County.

“It wasn’t just one person. Everybody contributed to everything,” Pauley said.

“At practice we focus on little things and I just feel like everybody came out with their best game today. It was great. We used the fact that it was a district [tournament] game, we want to keep playing this week to get ready for next week, as well.”

The Wildcats, who split two regular season meetings against Rappahannock County this season, struggled to get its offense going early on Tuesday. Warren County committed nine attack errors and mustered just seven kills — five by Troxell — in the first set as the Panthers seized a 1-0 lead in the match with the 25-20 win.

Warren County got rolling in the second set. A kill by Butler, two kills and a block by Pauley and back-to-back kills by Troxell helped the Wildcats jump out to an 8-2 lead in the second set.

The Panthers rallied to cut Warren County’s lead to 13-11 midway through the game, as two kills and an ace by sophomore Julia Estes (team-high 10 kills) powered a 6-1 Rappahannock County run. But Pauley’s third kill of the set sparked a 12-2 run to close out the set for Warren County.

“Sometimes we tend to do that. We start off a little flat-footed, a little slow like that but the girls just settled in between games one and two and then they were able to pull it out,” Wildcats coach Sarah Putnam said.

The Wildcats continued to roll in the third set after Rappahannock County took an initial 3-0 lead. Kills by Goode and Pauley helped knot the score at 3, then Troxell smashed five kills as part of an 8-1 run that gave Warren County a 13-6 advantage.

The Panthers pulled within 15-13 following an ace by Kayla Robey, but a handful of Rappahannock County errors helped the Wildcats — who smashed 15 kills in the frame — pull away and take a 2-1 match lead with a 25-18 victory.

“I think it came down to Warren County finding our weaknesses and finding our holes and capitalizing on it,” Rappahannock County head coach Courtney Atkins said. “They were very good blockers tonight. Game one was obviously our best game. We were talking. We were together. It just didn’t work out in the rest of the match.”

Warren County cruised through the fourth set, using a couple of long runs to complete the match victory with the 25-11 win. Back-to-back kills by Troxell and Pauley, two straight aces by Goode and a block by Troxell closed out the fourth and final set.

Troxell finished with six blocks and two aces in the match, while Pauley had two blocks and two aces. Goode had five aces for Warren County.

The Bull Run District tournament has no impact on the postseason, but Tuesday’s win does afford the Wildcats the opportunity to play at least one more match ahead of next week’s Conference 28 tournament.

“It’s nice to keep playing games this week versus practice,” Putnam said. “It keeps us in that game mentality, that focus, that drive versus having practice all week.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com