Colonels sweep Falcons

WOODSTOCK – The disparity was easy to assume before Central’s volleyball team took the court against visiting James Wood in its season opener Tuesday night.

After all, Central began its 2015 campaign fresh off a one-win season last fall, while James Wood, competing a full two classifications higher than the Falcons, had its most successful season in program history in 2014 when it finished as the Group 4A state runner-up.

However, Central head coach Christy Barb wanted her team to throw out the past those struggles and accomplishments Tuesday night.

The Falcons kept things close at times but the Colonels – looking to retool under first-year head coach Stephen Reaves after losing seven seniors to graduation from its 2014 squad – rolled to a 3-0 (25-13, 25-12, 25-10) victory.

“I told the girls coming in to this that we were going to take them as equal as us, that what happened last year is done and this year is a new season,” Barb said. “So my mentality with them was that when they came out on the floor tonight that they had to think that James Wood is equal and that we were better than James Wood.”

Central (0-1) showed poise early against James Wood (1-0), as a kill by junior Bree Pifer and an ace and a kill by junior Alisia Turner kept the Falcons within 7-6 to open the first set.

“I am happy with the way that they came out,” Barb said. “They came out ready to play. They didn’t take anything off of them and we held with them, and I think the girls were surprised that they were neck and neck with a team like James Wood.”

Errors began costing the Falcons midway through the first game, as James Wood used an 11-2 run to build an 18-8 lead. The Colonels’ strength in their offensive attack then began to show as junior Megan Hillyard assisted Taylor Heishman for four kills in an eight-point stretch, propelling James Wood to a 25-13 win.

Central, with the help of some substitution and rotation confusion on James Wood’s part, opened the second game on a 4-1 run and held a 5-4 lead following a Colonels attack error. But much like it did in the first game, James Wood used an 11-2 run to blow the set open, a spurt that included three aces by freshman Taylor Robinson and six kills from four different players.

Another ace by Turner pulled the Falcons within 18-10 later in the set but two aces by James Wood junior Leilani Burch and three kills by Heishman down the stretch gave the Colonels a 25-12 set win and a 2-0 lead in the match.

Reaves, making his high school coaching debut, said he was pleased with the way the Colonels passed the ball on Tuesday night.

“We worked on passing and I [kept stats] for passing today and we did pass better,” Reaves said. “We’re going in the right direction.”

Hillyard fueled James Wood’s offense with 16 assists in the first two sets, while Abigail Fergus added eight assists.

In all, the Colonels tallied 19 service aces and had nine players combine for 21 kills, led by Heishman’s 10.

“We’re very balanced. All of the kids are very strong so as a coaching staff it’s very hard – who’s your best kids?” Reaves said. “And we’re trying to develop a very competitive practice and a very competitive gym to do that. But we’ve definitely got an awesome bench.”

Using mostly reserves in the third set, James Wood raced out to an 11-1 lead and rolled to a 25-10 win to seal the sweep.

Central did manage five kills in the final game, including three from senior Savannah Gochenour, but the Falcons mustered only four kills combined in the first two sets.

“I think what hurt us tonight, that we’re gonna constantly be working on, is our passing,” Barb said. “Our serves were fine and when we could get hits our hits were strong. It was just the constant moving and passing that hurt us.”

Central returns to action Thursday with another home game against county rival Stonewall Jackson at 7 p.m.

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