Rams’ rally falls short in loss

Strasburg's Daniella Henry goes up to block a kill by Clarke County's Javonna Lansdown during a Tuesday night volleyball match at Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Strasburg High School’s volleyball team roared back from a 2-0 deficit against visiting Clarke County on Tuesday night. But it was the Eagles who made the final rally.

With the Rams just 3 points shy of completing its comeback, Clarke County erased Strasburg’s 3-point lead late in the decisive fifth game by scoring 6 of the match’s final 7 points to escape with a 3-2 (25-12, 25-22, 23-25, 17-25, 15-13) victory in Conference 35/Bull Run District action.

“I think we just got down on ourselves,” Rams senior Cassie Cooper said of Clarke County’s game-winning rally. “We should’ve kept our momentum going. We could’ve won. We could’ve won that game.”

Riding the energy from back-to-back wins that pulled Strasburg (3-6, 1-2 Conference 35) out of its early hole, the Rams raced out to a 3-0 lead in the fifth game behind a trio of aces from Cooper. Strasburg led 8-4 before the Eagles (7-2, 2-0) called their first timeout of the set, then broke a 9-9 tie with a Clarke County service error, a kill from junior Hannah Alexander and another Cooper ace.

With her team trailing 12-9, Clarke County head coach Seneca Sowers called her final timeout, during which she told her team to “get it together, play Eagle volleyball.”

Strasburg's Lauren Nofsinger goes up over Clarke County's Meredith Place during volleyball action Tuesday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“They know what to do out there. They’ve been practicing, they’ve been playing together three years now. It was more of just calm down, run your offense and play like they know how to play,” Sowers said.

“We were just calming them down more than saying anything. I don’t think there was any amazing coaching moment there.”

The message seemed to get through to the Eagles. Kendra Edgecomb delivered a kill out of the timeout off a double block by the Rams, which senior Javonna Lansdown followed with her own kill before Ashley Marean’s block tied the set at 12-all.

Edgecomb fired an ace out of Strasburg’s timeout and a Ram attack error made it 14-12 Eagles. Strasburg junior Daniella Henry won a jump ball at the net for a kill that pulled the Rams to within a point, but Marean ended the match with her eighth kill of the night.

“I mean when we hit with them we were good,” Strasburg head coach Suzanne Mathias said. “When we just free-ball it over and let them take swings at us – you can’t let teams take swings at you. You’ve gotta hit with them and that’s what we did in (games) three and four and most of five. Just didn’t go our way. I mean I’m pleased with the fight.”

Strasburg's Cortney McDonald goes up over Clarke County's Ashley Marean, left, and Morgan Withers, right, during the volleyball match Tuesday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg appeared to be heading toward the wrong end of a sweep after the Rams were blown out in game one and gave away a late lead in the second set. But the Rams just needed a little momentum.

They got that in the third game, which actually began with a 7-1 Clarke County lead before Strasburg found a rhythm.

Trailing 14-8 midway through the set, Cooper notched a pair of kills and Cortney McDonald’s dig fell in for a point before the senior served up an ace to help the Rams tie the game at 14. Clarke County regained a 2-point advantage before Alexander punched the ball over the net for a kill, and back-to-back aces by libero Ashleigh Hockman gave Strasburg an 18-16 lead.

Both teams began trading points before the Rams broke a 23-all tie with Cooper’s fifth kill of the set, and a Clarke County attack error gave Strasburg a 25-23 win.

“We realized the first and second game we played pretty bad. And then the third and fourth game, I don’t know, something just hit us. It was like, hey, we need to pick it up, we can win,” said Cooper, who led the Rams with 12 kills to go along with six aces and 16 assists. “And then once we won that third set the fourth set was like oh this is cake, we’ve got this. People started hitting, we started getting good passes. It all came together.”

Strasburg's Mikayla Kohlhaas dinks a shot over Clarke County's Kendra Edgecomb Tuesday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg stormed out to a 7-1 lead in game four, a run that included a kill each from Madison Foltz and Alexander and back-to-back kills by Henry. Clarke County rallied to take a 10-9 lead before the teams traded points. With the score tied at 13, Strasburg went on a decisive 7-0 run – which included kills by Henry (10 kills, three blocks), Foltz and Alexander and an ace from Cooper – before they tied the match at 2-2 with a 25-17 win.

“I changed things up and they trusted me to make those changes,” Mathias said. “People came off the bench and did a good job. (Madison) Funk came in and got some good serves and passes. … (Alexander) typically sets everything but I let her hit today and she got some good hits there. Just switching things up and that’s what I keep preaching to them. We’re a versatile team and if they believe in each other they can do good things. And if they constantly talk and back each other up they can be very good.”

McDonald finished with 11 kills for Strasburg, while Foltz had five kills and Alexander four kills and 13 assists. Hockman had 20 digs to lead the Rams.

Lansdown had 23 kills for Clarke County, although 12 of those came in the first two sets, including eight in the first game.

“It was just adjusting and being quicker and reading the ball,” Mathias said of defending Lansdown. “I thought Daniella (Henry) did that a little bit better. We’re gonna work on closing our block, because once we closed her and shut her down then we can make our runs too. Just continuing to work.”

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

Strasburg's Madison Foltz bumps the ball during volleyball action Tuesday night against Clarke County. Rich Cooley/Daily