Wildcats top Hawks in four sets

FRONT ROYAL — Practice makes perfect.

Two stellar Warren County volleyball players realized that in the fourth set of a 3-1 victory over crosstown rival Skyline on Tuesday night, and it paid off.

Sam Schroyer, who claimed a match-high 10 kills and equally leading seven blocks, and Arianna Smoot, who helped out in a big way with four kills, three aces and five blocks, went back to their roots as the Wildcats claimed a 3-1 (25-19, 25-18, 20-25 and 25-22) win.

The success was the Wildcats’ third in a row and third in their season-opening four matches. The Hawks dropped to 3-3 with the loss.

“I don’t care what each team has done when they come in here, it’s always a contested match and you can’t relax, no matter what the score is,” Warren County coach Dorinda Robinson said.

“It’s always nice to beat Skyline. It kinds of sets up the season on a positive note,” said Schroyer, a senior.

Warren County won the first two sets over its rivals by a respective six and eight points, but just as Robinson had predicted, Skyline came back to win the third set and threaten to extend the match into a fifth set.

A boisterous crowd at the Warren County gym cheered on each point as fans of the two Front Royal schools pushed their charges on.

Warren County started to extend their lead in the first set to go ahead by 18-12 on a kill by Smoot, a junior. The Wildcats adjusted that lead to eight, 24-16, on an unforced error by Skyline and then held on for the 1-0 lead in sets.

The second frame came about as easily as Warren County led by eight points on two occasions and by nine on another pair of situations.

However, the Hawks started to chip away from there. With sophomore Alexis Grim serving, the visitors scored five straight points. What had been a 22-13 Wildcat lead was whittled to 22-18.

Warren County was able to close out the set on a pair of unforced errors coupled with an ace by Schroyer.

The mini-comeback by the Hawks was a sign of things to come.

Until the first point of the third set, the Hawks had yet to enjoy a lead, but they did so on a pair of unforced errors by the Wildcats.

After leading quickly, Skyline permitted Warren County to knot the set at 3 and 5. Back up by two digits, a kill by the Hawks’ Nikea Whitmore and an ace by Grim gave the Hawks a 10-6 advantage.

Grim had four kills, four assists and two blocks on the night. In her team’s victorious third set, she was good for two kills, two assists and two blocks.

Even after a Warren County timeout, Skyline extended its advantage to 16-9 on consecutive kills by Jessica Sims and Taylor Ziemer (team-high seven kills and four aces).

But the Wildcats regrouped. Several unforced errors on the Hawks helped pull them get within 17-15, but Skyline was not to be outdone.

The Hawks put together a 4-1 streak of their own to go ahead 21-16. In a set of runs, the Wildcats fought back. Their 4-1 streak made it a two-point set again.

But ahead by two tallies, Skyline showed the raucous crowd it meant business. Three consecutive aces gave the Hawks the set. Warren still led the match 2-1 in sets.

A 2-1 points lead in the fourth set would be the Hawks’ final advantage of the night, but fighting back on the strength of a Whitmore kill, a Grim ace and another service point by Victoria Reinhardt, the Hawks found themselves down 9-8.

That’s when Schroyer and Smoot went to work. The Wildcats scored eight straight points. Among them were three aces by Schroyer and kills by Jayme Goode and freshman Kaley Foulks.

The Wildcats halted their own streak on a ball hit out-of-bounds, but a fault by the Hawks and a block by Schroyer made it 17-8.

It appeared that Warren County was ready to close out the match with a commanding 21-14 lead, but again, Skyline mustered enough strength to develop a 7-1 string to trail by just a point.

At 22-21, a Smoot kill, another tipped kill by Michayla Bacon and an ace by Hannah Wilson sandwiched themselves around a Skyline point to end the match.

“I like to talk about blocks,” said Schroyer. She came up with one in the first set, one in set three and then finished out with five in the deciding frame.

She explained two fundamentals are used when reversing the ball back.

“When it’s coming from the (opposing) front line, you don’t have much time to think. It’s more about reactions. But when it’s coming from the backline, you have to pay more attention, because it’s probably going to be crossing just over the net. We actually worked (on the latter) in practice,” she said.

“Arianna served well in the fourth set,” said Robinson.

Smoot scored six aces in the final two sets after being shut out in the first two frames.

“I went back to what I do in practice — relax and then hit the ball like I do on a kill. I just re-focused on the follow through,” Smoot said.

Skyline coach Erika Berry, though pleased with her team’s performance in the last two sets, said her Hawks needed continued work in pressurized situations.

“When the score gets close and there’s a lot of noise around them, that’s when they have to show poise,” she said.

Katelyn Bolt led the Hawks with six kills. Whitmore added four of the same, along with two aces. Alana Smith and Tori Jo Brown added three kills apiece for Skyline.

In all, Warren out-scored Skyline 35-11 in kills. The Hawks had the 15-11 edge in aces. The Wildcats out-blocked their adversaries 13-2.