Wildcats fall at home as Rapp remains unbeaten

FRONT ROYAL – The ups and downs continued for Warren County’s volleyball team Tuesday night.

The Wildcats failed to find consistency in the first two sets against visiting Rappahannock County, then couldn’t hold momentum from a third-set victory as the Panthers picked up a 3-1 (25-20, 25-17, 22-25, 25-13) win in Bull Run District action to remain unbeaten.

“We just didn’t execute like we needed to,” Wildcats coach Dorinda Robinson said. “We played well (Monday) night against Clarke County. Played well in a five-game loss against George Mason (last Thursday) and I think we just ran out of juice. The mojo left or whatever, I don’t know.”

Warren County (7-8) struggled to contain Rappahannock County (14-0) junior Julia Estes, who smashed a match-high 27 kills in the four sets. The Wildcats did finish with 13 total blocks – including seven from senior Sam Schroyer – but Robinson said “we just couldn’t figure out a defense to stop (Estes).”

“Just try to get a block up and at least try to slow it down, if nothing else, or get a good block and put it back on their court,” Robinson said of defending the 5-foot-7 junior. “A couple times we did it but we just didn’t do it consistently enough.”

On the strength of three early kills by Estes and another trio of spikes by junior Brianna Settle, the Panthers raced out to a 20-9 lead in the first set before Warren County rallied. An ace by junior Amalia Abrego, a kill by senior Jayme Goode and two kills and an ace by senior Chelsey Butler cut into the deficit before a Schroyer block and a Panthers error pulled the Wildcats within 24-20. An attack error on Warren County halted the rally and gave the first set to Rappahannock County.

The Wildcats started strong in the second game, as a pair of kills by freshman Kaley Foulks, a kill by Goode and another Butler ace built a 5-0 lead. Estes then took control by delivering five kills and a block as part of an 8-2 run that gave the Panthers an 8-7 lead.

Both teams began trading points midway through the set before Estes and Settle teamed up to help Rappahannock County close with another 8-2 run and a 2-0 lead in the match.

“We get on a roll and then we let up,” Robinson said. “We just can’t keep the same intensity for a whole game or for a whole three games or a whole five games.

“I just don’t think they believe in themselves yet,” she added. “They’re still looking for that one person to be the leader and we don’t have that one person anymore.”

Warren County avoided the sweep with a victory in the third set, as the Wildcats minimized their errors, got kills from six different players and tallied five blocks in the game. Trailing 12-9 in the frame, Warren County tied it up following a kill by Michayla Bacon, an Emma Wright ace and a block by Goode. An ace by Hannah Wilson gave Warren County its first lead in the set at 14-13, and the Wildcats extended that lead to 20-17 later in the frame after a block by Arianna Smoot and a Panthers error.

The Wildcats broke a 21-all tie with a block by Schroyer, a kill by Mary deVenoge and Bacon’s second kill of the set before a Rappahannock County error gave Warren County a 25-22 win.

Warren County’s momentum was short-lived, however, as the Panthers used a nine-point service run by Amber Smoot and four kills by Estes to build a comfortable 13-1 lead in the fourth game before Rappahannock County rolled to the 25-13 victory. Estes smashed 10 of her kills in the final frame.

Panthers coach Courtney Atkins said the loss in the third set “just kind of turned us around and kind of humbled us a little bit.”

“Sometimes you just need to kind of be humbled and say we’ve got to go out and do business and take care of it the way we know how,” Atkins said.

Bacon, Foulks and Goode (three blocks) led Warren County with five kills apiece, while Butler (three aces, nine assists) and Smoot (two blocks) chipped in four kills each. Schroyer had three kills to go along with her seven blocks.

Settle finished with 10 kills and three blocks for Rappahannock County, while Estes also had three blocks and three aces. Kayla Robey had 37 assists for the Panthers.

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