Warriors excited to play in regionals

Sherando's Audra Smelser and Mackenzie Cornwell celebrate after recording the final point in beating Handley in a three-game sweep Wednesday in Stephens City. The Warriors play at Bassett on Monday in regionals. Rich Cooley/Daily file

STEPHENS CITY — A big part of Sherando’s volleyball success this season has come through the play of its seven seniors. The senior group is hoping to have a little more magic left in them when they play in the Region 4A West tournament starting Monday.

The Warriors (13-9) will travel to play Bassett in the first round at 5 p.m. Monday.

“It’s really exciting for us, especially since we have seven seniors and we’ve all been together for so long,” Sherando senior Kelsie Utz said. “It’s just really exciting to go out with a bang, and just really push ourselves to see how far we can go.”

It’s the first regional appearance for Sherando in volleyball since 2011. The Warriors were the second seed in the Conference 21A tournament last week, and advanced to the finals.

Sherando lost a four-set match to Woodgrove, and then lost a coin flip to Bassett to determine which team had to travel in regionals.

The seven seniors — Brooke Aston, Sarah Schellhammer, Kelsey Singhas, Audra Smelser, Dreaya Somerville, Utz and Kelsea Wilkins — have been playing together for a few years, including in travel ball. The players said that has been a key to the team’s success.

“Everyone gets along really well,” Aston said. “It helps that we all get along off the court and on the court. So we all have good team communication.”

The strength of the Warriors all season has been defense. Sherando has a small team, and the defense has been able to carry the team into regionals.

Utz said that the back row has great communication and that has helped a lot on defense.

“I think our defense is fast and quick, because we have to be able to make up for a lack of height,” Utz said. “Our communication has gotten a lot better recently. That’s helped our defense tremendously, because that’s how we know who’s taking what. I think having a well-established defense in the back row and knowing exactly what ball is whose is really important to the success of our defense.”

Aston is the libero and leads the team and the area in digs with 352. She said she enjoys playing taller teams with big hitters and trying to get the ball back in play.

“The harder the team is to play the more fun it is, I think,” Aston said.

Sherando coach James Minney said he wasn’t sure what to expect from Bassett, but from what he knows he expects them to have a few big hitters and be a taller squad.

If Sherando wins Monday it would play four-time defending state champion Loudoun County in the regional quarters on Tuesday.

“We’d like to get one win, and we’d love to play Loudoun County on Tuesday night,” Minney said. “We know how that will pretty much turn out, but we would love to have that opportunity one more time. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

Minney said it will be around a four-and-a-half hour bus ride, but he said he didn’t think it would affect the team at all.

The players said the long drive doesn’t bother them.

“At first we said that it sucks having to go that far, but then we said that if we have to drive that far then we better come out with a win,” Aston said.

For the seniors it’s one more chance to play together and to keep their strong season going.

“It’s pretty great because we had a great six years together, and it’s been great the whole time,” Utz said of the seniors. “It’s kind of bittersweet because we’ve all been playing for so long and we’re all going separate directions. But it’s just a nice way to end it. So it’s exciting.”

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