McDonald paces Rams over Generals

QUICKSBURG – Strasburg senior Cortney McDonald saved perhaps her best game for maybe the final time in Stonewall Jackson’s gymnasium Tuesday night as her Rams knocked off the homestanding Generals 3-1 to earn a sweep of the Shenandoah County rivalry in volleyball.

Earlier, the Rams owned a 3-2 match victory at Strasburg.

McDonald, one of the Rams’ captains, tallied 11 kills and three aces as her team eased itself into a 25-17, 25-16, 20-25 and 25-15 victory over its rival.

“Cortney is one of our seniors. In that way she’s one of the seniors and certainly one of our leaders,” said Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias, whose team improved to 2-4 in the non-district matchup. “It’s a spot she’s asked for and sometimes maybe she has to shoulder a lot of responsibility. But she handles it well, and certainly she played well tonight.”

McDonald, a hitter, said after a recent match that her Rams had to just work harder. She took a dose of her own message, as she made key kills and services throughout the match. She rose to new heights in the key fourth game.

As per the two early game scores, Strasburg outscored Stonewall Jackson 50-33, but, buoyed by a home-game crowd, the Generals clawed back to win Game 3 and force at least a fourth set.

In the match-deciding fourth game, Stonewall trailed 16-15, but McDonald scored two goals and two aces in late play to help pull out the contest.

“I was very pleased with the first two games. I think we were ready to play and it showed,” said Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias. “The fourth game was not so good and, for the fifth game, meh. But we won it and that’s the most important thing.”

At first it seemed like a game of numbers. Not only did Strasburg enjoy 8- and 9-point victories, it outscored its host 12-1 on kills in Game 1. Game 2 was little different. In that frame, the Rams out-killed the Generals 8-2.

Strasburg brought 16 varsity players to Stonewall Jackson, compared to the 11 Stonewall Jackson coach Lindsey Dinges had at her disposal.

The Rams’ front line can include as many as three girls 6 feet or taller. Relate that to the Generals, who played with one player at least 6 feet tall.

But Dinges team had filed all that info away as Game 3 started.

“Once again, we started slowly,” said Dinges.

As the Generals continued they morphed into an aggressive team before their home partisans.

The third contest was tied three times until Stonewall Jackson began to see some light.

Two kills by Madison Long, 1 point by Emily Ball, an ace by Jessica Pechie (5 in all) and a net error on Strasburg gave the Generals a 15-10 lead.

Stonewall led by 7 on two occasions; then Strasburg started a run of its own. With Hannah Alexander serving well, the Rams outscored the Generals 10-6 to take a 21-20 lead. But Stonewall Jackson polished off the final 4 points. Madison Councill had two aces to end the scoring in Stonewall’s favor.

With the score in games 2-1 in favor of Strasburg, the Rams came out determined to finish the match. They led 10-6, but Dinges’ squad would not quit.

Stonewall Jackson outscored Strasburg 6-1 to take a 12-11 lead, but that would be Stonewall’s final advantage.

McDonald kicked it in from there.

“This is my first season where I’m looking to score more. I’ve had a sore (right) shoulder in previous years and wasn’t getting as many shots up. The doctors think it’s because I play both sports (volleyball and softball). But as long as I stretch it out, I’ll be OK,” she said.

Strasburg produced 36 kills to nine for Stonewall. The Rams had 11 aces compared to 10 for their hosts.

“We’re a good serving team,” Dinges said. “The girls know I don’t like to waste a serve.”

Mathias noted, “Well it was the first day of school (in Shenandoah County) and I think the team was excited about it. I gave them the weekend off, and they seemed to respond tonight.”

Contact Jim Laise at sports@nvdaily.com.