Hawks sweep rival Wildcats

FRONT ROYAL – For the last week, Skyline volleyball coach Erika Berry has been preaching to the Hawks the importance of keeping their minds focused on the 12 players on the court and nothing else. The Hawks responded with arguably their most complete game of the season on Monday night.

Skyline was sharp in all facets against visiting cross-town rival Warren County as it rolled to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-12, 25-13) sweep, snapping a three-game slide against the Wildcats and improving to 5-2 against Conference 28 competition.

“You could see they were just feeling each other. Everything was beautiful tonight,” said Berry, whose team lost a 3-1 decision to the Wildcats on Sept. 8. “Serve receive to the setters, to the hitters – I’ve never seen so many kills in a Skyline volleyball game. Very impressive, and I knew that they had it and that’s what we’ve been … working on is just pulling it out of them.”

The Hawks (6-5 overall) showed impressive balance in its offensive attack against the struggling Wildcats (5-5, 3-3 Conference 28), as eight of Skyline’s 10 players recorded at least one kill. Skyline as a team smashed 38 total kills in the three games and had no fewer than seven players tally an attacking point in each set.

“I think we just went up with confidence,” Hawks sophomore Alexis Grim said, “confidence that we could do it, that we could put the ball to the floor.”

Skyline built a four-point lead early in the first set thanks in part to a handful of Warren County errors before a block by Wildcats junior Arianna Smoot cut the Hawks’ lead to 8-6. Then Skyline’s attack heated up, as four different Hawks smashed kills in a five-point span to push the lead to five.

Michaela Berry’s kill brought Warren County back to within 15-11 before Skyline notched four straight kills as part of a 6-2 run that included three kills by senior Katelyn Bolt and two by junior Nikea Whitmore. The Hawks sealed the win and a 1-0 lead on senior Taylor Ziemer’s fourth kill – and Skyline’s 15th – of the opening game.

“I think when we first came out we were just a little nervous because it is Warren County, it’s our big rival, but we really came out strong this time because we really wanted to win,” said Ziemer, who led all players with nine kills on Monday.

Skyline continued that momentum into the second set. Warren County briefly took a 4-3 lead following an ace by senior Emma Wright early in the game before the Hawks responded with another big run, this one an 11-3 spurt that put Skyline firmly in control up 14-7. The Wildcats failed to pull closer than seven points for the rest of the set as Skyline seized a 25-12 win and a 2-0 lead while ending the set with back-to-back kills by Grim and freshman Alana Smith.

“Even our serve tonight was very aggressive,” said Erika Berry, whose team finished with 11 aces and missed only five serves. “Warren County couldn’t get a good offense going off of that so it set us up a lot.”

Trying to fend off the sweep, Warren County – which has lost four of its last five games – gained its largest lead of the night with a 10-5 advantage during a 6-1 run that included an ace and a kill by junior Taryn Post and four Skyline attack errors.

A kill by Skyline libero Tori Reinhardt gave serve to the Hawks and Grim rallied her team with an eight-point service run that included five aces and gave Skyline a 14-10 lead.

“I just did all I could, everything I could put into it, you know, because when you’re down you just can’t give up,” said Grim, who had seven kills to go along with five aces.

Skyline closed the set on a 20-3 run to seal the sweep in impressive fashion.

“Every time we came into the huddle, ‘We’re not done. We’re not done.’ Because we’ve been on that roller coaster and we’ve ridden it,” Erika Berry said. “They did get a little carried away, gave some points away but thankfully they were able to settle down, buckle down and play our game. And once we get back to Skyline volleyball we’re good to go.”

Freshman Kaley Foulks led Warren County with five kills in the match, while Michaela Berry added four. Chelsey Butler had eight assists for the Wildcats.

Bolt had five kills for Skyline, while Whitmore finished with five kills, two blocks and two aces. Junior Jessica Sims and senior Rebecca Thomas led the Hawks with 17 and 12 assists, respectively.

“This is a great win for Skyline volleyball and I think these girls deserve it,” Erika Berry said. “They came out strong tonight, and I’m proud of them.”

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