Strasburg closes out Central

STRASBURG – Strasburg High School rode the momentum provided by a senior night home crowd to shut out cross-county rival and district and conference foe Central 3-0 on Thursday.

It was not that easy. After the Rams (5-9 Bull Run District, 8-12 overall) vanquished Central (0-15, 0-20) by 25-5 in the first set, the Falcons put up a good fight but lost sets two and three (25-21, 25-23).

The Rams, as the No. 3 seed, will visit Clarke County (2) Tuesday night, 7, in the semifinal round of the 2A East Conference 35 volleyball tournament, while the Falcons, as the fifth seed, go to Madison County, the conference’s fourth seed on Monday. That match also starts at 7 p.m.

“I think we might have let down just a little,” said Strasburg senior and co-captain Emily Alexander. “We got too comfortable. We’ve got to work on that.”

“Our first set we were kind of arguing with each other, but we came out of that and settled down,” said Central’s Cianne Field.

“I told them,” added Central coach Christy Barb, “not one person wins or loses for us, we’re all in this together.”

A nearly full bleachers section of Strasburg fans greeted the volleyball team. Seniors Kelsey Jenkins, Haley Copeland, Emily Alexander, Rachel Funkhouser, Miley Hupp and Carey Scott were honored with their parents between the junior varsity and varsity matches.

The “Mountain” student rooting section lent its voice, too.

It appeared that all the energy in the home gym might force the Falcons to fold early after the Rams wiped them out by 20 points in the first set, but afterward, the visitors became more aggressive.

They opened a 5-0 lead and expanded that to 7-2 in set two, before Strasburg made a run. The Rams ran off eight straight points to advance 10-7.

Leading 14-10, the Rams watched as it was the Falcons’ turn for a quick quintet of consecutive scores. With the run, Central moved ahead 15-14 on a block and kill by senior Savannah Gochenour.

The Falcons led 17-15, but made an error. Then Kelsey Jenkins provided a kill for the 17-all tie. A half-dozen consecutive digits for the Rams had them ahead 23-17, but once again Central fought back. It was 23-21 even though the home team closed the set out with consecutive tallies.

Just like in the second set, Central opened a 5-1 lead in set No. 3, then clamped down on Strasburg. The Falcons would score four straight points to give the Falcons a 13-6 lead, but the Rams came back to go 6-1 on a streak of their own. They trailed 14-12 and 16-14 on back-to-back kills by Miley Hupp.

Carey Scott tied the match at 17-17 on a kill and one more tie (19-19) occurred when two errors by the Falcons and a combination Cortney McDonald block-kill put Strasburg up 22-19.

The set and match ended on a Central fault.

“I was a little nervous there at the end, but I had confidence in the seniors and we knew we could pull it out. We always seem to get stuck by a rotation, but we call time out and get out of it,” said Jenkins.

“I feel like we’re on a positive run,” said Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias, “but as far as what we might do (in the tournament). It’s hard to tell. We’ve been so up and down.

Strasburg outshot Central 22-10 in kills, but the Falcons led in blocks (16-6). Kila Watson had six of the latter.

Hupp led the Rams with six kills. Alexander and Cassie Cooper each had four spikes. Jenkins finished with two aces.

“This group gets along great. We didn’t want to deal with drama this year and we didn’t. We’re going to make this as positive as it can be,” said Central coach Barb.

Central played without Tamra Scott, who likely will miss the rest of the season with a sprained ankle.