Warriors miss key chances in loss to Colonels

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando’s volleyball team missed on some key opportunities in a Conference 21A/Northwestern District match with visiting James Wood on Thursday night.

The Warriors failed to maintain momentum from an opening-set victory and squandered game-point situations twice over the final three sets as the Colonels picked up a 3-1 (21-25, 26-24, 25-20, 27-25) win.

“I think the consistency in both teams back and forth wasn’t there tonight,” Warriors coach James Minney said. “I know they’re better that what they showed and we’re better than what we showed. It’s just one of those things where they did what they needed to do to win and that’s great. But for us we didn’t do what we needed to do to win.”

The loss drops Sherando to 9-5 overall and 2-1 in conference play, while James Wood (12-4) improved to 2-1 in the conference. The Warriors, who haven’t beaten James Wood since 2011, also fell to the Colonels in similar fashion on Sept. 29, although that match didn’t count toward playoff seeding.

Much like their first meeting two weeks ago, Sherando seized an early 1-0 lead by rallying late after trailing for most of the first set only to see James Wood counter with three straight victories.

Sherando nearly staked itself a valuable two-game lead during a closely contested second set that included 14 ties, as it gained a 24-22 lead following two straight aces by senior Kelsie Utz. However, Mackenzie Cornwell’s tip attempt went wide on the next exchange and a kill by Colonels freshman Taylor Robinson tied the score at 24-all before her kill two points later ended the set and tied the match at 1-1.

The Warriors had a chance to extend the match to a fifth set after falling 25-20 in game three but blew a 6-point lead in the fourth game and also failed to capitalize with a 24-23 lead later in the frame.

Sherando built a 14-8 lead in the fourth set with a 6-0 run that featured kills by Kelsea Wilkins, Dreaya Somerville and Alaina Paige and a pair of aces from libero Brooke Aston, but the Colonels answered with their own 6-0 run to tie the set at 15-all, one of 13 ties in the frame.

“One of the biggest issues we’ve had all season is we give up points in chunks, and we’ve talked about that,” Minney said. “In several matches this season, several sets, we’ve given up five, six, seven points in a row whether we were up or behind, it didn’t matter. But when you get to that point you give momentum to the other team and they just roll through you and you’re not able to regain that. We did that again tonight, gave up points in chunks when we had an opportunity to at least push for a fifth set and have a chance to win this one. We just didn’t do it.”

Sherando eventually pulled ahead 24-23 following a kill and an ace by senior Kelsey Singhas, but James Wood gained a point back on a net violation on the Warriors. James Wood’s Kirsten Mullin and Sherando’s Paige traded kills to tie the score again at 25 before Mullin smashed back-to-back kills to lock up the win.

Colonels first-year coach Stephen Reaves said a couple formation shifts during the match made the difference for James Wood down the stretch.

“(I) put Morgan Biggs on left side because I saw something and she did fantastic. I ran Kirsten around. I didn’t play her O-H (outside hitter) in the beginning and she hit game point for us. Morgan hit game point in the other one (the third set),” Reaves said.

Singhas finished with 18 kills for the Warriors – a match high – while Paige had seven kills and Wilkins six for Sherando. Cornwell had 16 assists and two kills, while Utz had 12 assists and two aces for the Warriors.

James Wood smashed 48 total kills in the win, including 14 from senior Emma Montgomery and nine from Leilani Burch.

“Part of our biggest problem is we don’t have the height,” said Minney, whose team finished with just two blocks, both of which came in the first set. “We’re not able to get hands on a lot of balls and that hurts you. That’ll hurt you against any team. Even if you don’t block at least you’re a deterrent. But with that being said I think we play really good defense considering teams are just slamming balls on us all the time. And eventually you’ve got to have an offense and we just don’t have the offense right now to compete with that.”

Junior Megan Hillyard finished with 43 assists for James Wood.

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