Warren Wildcats head to semifinals

FRONT ROYAL – For the second year in a row Warren County’s volleyball team will play in the semifinal round of the Virginia High School’s League’s 3A East Region Conference 28 tournament.

The Wildcats (11-10) dropped Manassas Park 3-2 Monday in five sets (25-17, 22-25, 25-11, 15-25, 15-7). Warren had beaten Manassas once during the regular season.

Obviously it was not easy. The visiting Cougars were 5-16 this season, but they had competed against larger schools like Liberty, Fauquier, Kettle Run and Brentsville, so the record might have been misleading.

Whatever it was, after getting strapped for an eight-point loss in the first set, the Cougars came back to make a match of it. Manassas Park led in every game but one.

“I told you we’d be exciting and we were just that,” said Manassas Park coach Kate Darlington. “This group is easily one of the most coachable I have ever been with. They just seem to have a good time playing together.”

“Our expectation was to win,” said Cougar Brooke Dunn, a sophomore who gave Warren County fits at the net.

Warren County had more size and experience than Manassas Park and in the first set it showed.

The Wildcats trailed 5-2 in game one, although a kill by Mary deVenoge pulled them with 5-4. What followed were eight straight points leading to a 12-5 advantage. Manassas Park could not stop the momentum.

It looked like Warren County would take care of the Cougars in the second set, and provide itself with enough of a push to take the match in three frames.

After all, the Wildcats overcame a 6-1 deficit to begin play with a 5-1 run that led to a 7-6 advantage.

The teams stayed within one-to-two points of each other before the Wildcats began another 4-0 skein to go ahead 18-12.

Darlington, of Manassas Park, called timeout, but Warren held the same six-point lead, 20-14, when the Cougars got back into the act.

They ran off four straight points and trailed 20-18.

The game was finally tied three straight times. At 22-22, Dunn supplied three straight kills and the set. The Cougars outscored the Wildcats 11-2 down the stretch to win. The teams were tied at one win each.

The third set was the only one that Warren dominated early. The Wildcats went out 17-5 based on a 7-1 run and cruised to the 14-point victory.

Now ahead 2-1, Warren County prepared to close out the match.

“I don’t understand what happens to us, but we get down by a little and lose our confidence,” said Warren’s Sam Schroyer.

Manassas Park completely erased the momentum in set three. Even after being shellacked in two of the three frames, they dominated by running off a 10-4 lead followed by a 22-7 advantage-the Cougars’ largest of the match. Warren could do little with the visitors for the remainder of the set.

Now tied in sets at two apiece, Warren went to what it does best.

For much of the match, freshman Yanira Lopez and Dunn of Manassas Park controlled the net

Dunn finished the match with eight kills, one ace and one block. Lopez added eight kills, an ace and a block.

But Warren County had an antidote in junior Arianna Smoot.

“She was the star tonight,” said Warren coach Dorinda Robinson.

“I love playing the front line with Arianna,” added Schroyer.

Smoot led with a match-high six blocks and eight aces. Her teammate, Schroyer, added eight kills and a block.

Warren County only trailed at 1-0, then seemed to overpower Manassas Park.

While Schroyer owned three kills and a block in set five and Smoot blocked three shots and achieved as many kills, it was team captain Goode who served as her team jumped ahead 8-3 and then held on.

“When you’re at the line, it’s not a matter of scoring aces at that point. It’s a matter of keeping the ball in play,” said Goode. She finished with a team-high nine kills and one block.

“I think everyone knew in the last set that this could be it for the seniors. We just dug in,” said Goode.

Warren will play Thursday night in the semifinal round against the winner of Monday’s first-round match between two-seed Riverside and seventh-seed William Monroe. A Riverside victory will send the Wildcats on the road, while a Monroe win returns the second-round to Warren County.