Eagles finish strong in sweep of Rams

STRASBURG — Strasburg put itself in perfect position in each set on Thursday, but each time Clarke County found a way to rally.

The Rams saw late leads disappear in each set in a 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-21) loss to the Eagles in Bull Run District volleyball action.

“I thought we played well,” Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said. “We just made some crucial mistakes at crucial points. Being up, you gotta finish. You’ve got to get serves in when you’re trying to finish. You’ve just got to be smart.”

The Rams (5-10, 2-8 Bull Run, 2-4 Conference 35) had an early 13-7 lead in the first set, before the Eagles made it a little closer. Strasburg eventually held a 20-17 edge in the set, but Clarke County responded.

A kill and a block by Ashley Marean helped the Eagles tie the set at 20. The two teams traded service errors for 3 straight points. Two kills by Allegra Eyles and a kill by Javonna Lansdown proved to be the difference as the Eagles won the set.

“Strasburg played tough. Any rival game you expect that to happen. You expect close sets,” Clarke County coach Seneca Sowers said. “I’m proud of the girls for closing the games when it mattered. I thought we did a lot of things well tonight. We just had a lot of little mistakes that stopped us from getting runs or a lot of points in a row.”

It was more of the same in the second set. Strasburg used a 5-0 run, led by a kill from Rachel Funkhouser and a service ace by Kelsey Jenkins, to take a 14-9 lead. Clarke County chipped away at the lead and finally tied things up at 20-20 on a kill by Lansdown.

Strasburg’s Carey Scott gave the Rams a 22-21 lead with a kill, but Lansdown responded with a kill of her own. The Rams took a 23-22 lead on a Clarke County service error.

Eyles had a kill, which was followed by a Strasburg error to put the Eagles in front 24-23. Clarke County’s Rebecca Acland finished the set off with a block.

“They got ahead to 20 first in the first two sets, and that’s a mental test of any team,” Sowers said. “I told (the girls after the game) if (Strasburg is) ahead at 20 points and you know you have a set to give, its very easy to give up at the end. We didn’t, we fought for every single point and got to 25 first.”

The third set went back and forth throughout. Neither team had more than a 3-point lead until the end. A kill each by Funkhouser and Cassie Cooper helped give the Rams a 17-15 edge. The Eagles scored 4 consecutive points and didn’t trail the rest of the way.

With the set tied at 19, the Eagles won 6 of the final 7 points to finish the match off in straight sets.

Mathias said it was a much better effort from her team than what she saw in a loss to Madison County earlier this week.

“I’m disappointed we lost, but at the same time it was a completely different team on the court for me talking and teamwork wise,” Mathias said. “…I thought we blocked real well and got hands on the ball and we covered each other. We had good passes for the most part. I saw a lot of positives.”

Lansdown led the Eagles (9-6, 7-4 Bull Run, 5-1 Conference 35) with 14 kills and four aces. Eyles had eight kills and one block, and Morgan Withers had 18 assists for the Eagles. Acland had five kills, three blocks and two aces.

“Our setters did a great job of getting the sets to our middle’s to our outside’s and to our weak side,” Sowers said. “I think that really switches up the defense on the other side, which is to our advantage. Our setters did a great job. Our hitters were very smart tonight.”

Emily Alexander had two kills and two blocks, and Scott and Cooper had three kills each for the Rams. Jenkins had 13 digs, and Cooper and Haley Copeland each had 10 assists for Strasburg.

The Rams have lost nine of their last 11 matches. Mathias said the Rams just need to keep working hard down the stretch of the regular season.

“I’m trying to get them to finish with pride and work hard for the remainder of the season,” Mathias said. “We’re starting our second round of seeing everybody. To me, they can beat anybody. So if we can just keep working maybe things will fall our way towards the end.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com