Generals top Falcons in four sets to pick up first win

WOODSTOCK – Slow starts have plagued Stonewall Jackson High School’s volleyball team during the first half of the season. Following another sluggish beginning to a loss to Stuarts Draft last week, Generals head coach Lindsey Dinges demanded that her team come out strong on Monday against county rival Central.

The Generals did.

Stonewall opened Monday’s road match against Central with a victory in the first game, then overcame a blowout loss in game two to rally late in the third set en route to a 3-1 (25-23, 15-25, 25-23, 25-11) victory. It was the Generals’ first win of 2016.

“It doesn’t seem like it made a big difference because we still came out in the second game slow but at least they came out and we had that 1-0 lead,” Dinges said. “So losing the second game wasn’t as bad, didn’t put as much pressure on us.”

The Generals (1-7), who fell to Central (1-7) in four sets earlier this season, raced out to a 5-1 lead in the first game Monday night and led 13-8 before the Falcons went on a run. Back-to-back Stonewall errors and an ace by Central junior Olivia Gochenour pulled the Falcons within 2 points, and Kila Watson tied the set at 13-all with her first kill.

A one-handed dig by Generals junior Juliana Brill on another Watson spike fell in for a point to reclaim the lead for Stonewall, and an ace by Jessie Pechie followed by four straight Central errors gave Stonewall a 19-14 advantage. Five Stonewall errors helped turn a 23-17 Generals lead into a tie game at 23-all, but a Central attack error and senior Emily Ball’s second block of the set gave Stonewall the win and a 1-0 lead.

“It showed us exactly what we can do if we focus, buckle down and play our best volleyball,” said Ball, who had five kills and two blocks in the win. “(When we) put all the keys together, everybody does their job, it turns out great.”

Serve receive gave Central fits in the opening game – the Falcons allowed three aces in the first set and failed to return a serve on five other occasions – and that trend haunted the Falcons for most of the night.

“They were serving real deep and we were getting a hand on it but we couldn’t get it past the 10-foot line,” said Falcons coach Alyssa Bane, who expressed disappointment in her team’s lack of communication in the loss. “Our setter couldn’t push it out so we were kind of unbalanced on it. We couldn’t get out of it.”

It was the Falcons’ own serving that bounced them back in game two, as they stroked 10 aces – including three apiece from Gochenour, junior Rachel Irvin and senior Kila Watson – while rolling to a 25-15 victory to knot the match score at 1-1.

“I think we just lost it,” Generals senior Madison Long said, “and I think we were kind of expecting them to give us points and that’s not what we should think. That’s not what our mentality should be. I think we just lost it and then after we lost it we were like oh crap, we’ve gotta get everything together.”

Stonewall did that in the third game, one that was competitive throughout. Central, which had kills from eight different players in the set, held a 21-17 lead late before the Generals came storming back.

A kill from Ball and a Brill ace pulled Stonewall within two, and two kills from sophomore Autumn Smith and another from Madison Councill – paired with a Central error – tied the game at 23-all. Pechie’s ace gave Stonewall a 1-point lead before a Falcon error sealed a 2-1 Stonewall lead.

“We’ve definitely been struggling after we get down on a run of not being able to come back,” said Long, who had five kills in the third set and led all players with eight in the match. “I think this is a big growth for us, being able to actually push back and get on another run for us.”

Riding that ever-important momentum, the Generals raced out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth game. After a Gochenour ace pulled the Falcons within 9-6, Stonewall went on an 11-2 run that included a 6-point service run by Pechie. Ball’s third kill of the set gave Stonewall the 25-11 win and ended the match.

“The fourth game, they had that from the start,” said Dinges, who added that she saw “everything come together tonight.”

“I told them after the third game, I said listen, we don’t wanna go five games. We don’t want the stress of a 15-point game. Come out and finish it. And they did. They all executed their jobs and that’s the main thing.”

Smith had three kills, three aces and 10 assists for Stonewall Jackson, while Brill finished with four aces.

Darden Lear led Central with five kills, while Gochenour and Rachel Irvin (10 assists) had four apiece. Gochenour, Irvin and Watson each had five aces for the Falcons, and Alisia Turner had four.

Both teams return to action tonight, as Stonewall Jackson hosts Wilson Memorial and Central hosts George Mason.

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