Undefeated Panthers sweep past Wildcats

FRONT ROYAL – Rappahannock County entered Thursday’s volleyball contest with Warren County with a perfect record. The Wildcats weren’t able to come up with a win, but they were able to hang tough with the Panthers.

Rappahannock County held off a late surge in the third set to win 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 28-26) in Bull Run District action.

“We played hard,” Warren County coach Dorinda Robinson said. “They’re a very good team. I thought my girls played well. We just played a really good team (Thursday).”

The Panthers raced out to a 10-4 lead in the first set, led by three kills from senior Julia Estes. The Wildcats responded with a run of their own to cut the lead to 12-10, including a kill by Lauren Fox.

A kill by Rappahannock County’s Brianna Settle and a block by Mary Young pushed the lead to 14-10.

Warren County responded with a 6-0 run, aided by a kill and a block by Arianna Smoot and a kill by Kaley Foulks for a 16-14 edge.

It appeared the Panthers had taken control of the set as they went on a 10-1 run for a 24-16 lead. Estes had four kills during the run.

Two points later the Panthers began celebrating thinking they had the set won on a spike by Estes, but Smoot was able to dig the ball out and the Wildcats won the point. The Wildcats eventually cut the lead to 24-20, before a kill by Estes put the set away.

“Warren County’s a strong defensive team,” Rappahannock County coach Courtney Atkins said. “That’s the mark of a good team, who can play against a solid defensive team and still come out on top.”

The second set was close early on with neither team having more than a four-point lead. Back-to-back blocks by Foulks and Smoot cut Rappahannock County’s lead to 11-10.

The Panthers, who have dropped just one set all season, then seized control of the set with a 14-4 the rest of the way. Estes had four kills and a block during the spurt.

“Estes is a very good volleyball player,” Robinson said. “She’s their go-to player, and she’s going to put it down. We couldn’t get anything on the block, and that made it harder for our defense.”

The Panthers (6-0, 2-0 Bull Run) started off strong again in the third set, building an 11-5 lead, led by three kills from Estes and two by Settle.

Warren County battled back with two kills by Smoot and the serving of Foulks. The Warren County sophomore had four straight aces, and a block by Britney Carter helped give the Wildcats a 17-14 advantage.

The Panthers responded with two aces by Kayla Robey and a kill by Settle to take a 24-20 lead.

“Games that are close like that it’s hard, especially for teenage girls, sometimes they can get rattled,” Atkins said. “Even the coach get rattled, but I think our composure was showing tonight.”

The Wildcats (4-3, 0-2 Bull Run) had one last flurry in them. Three Rappahannock County errors and a kill by Foulks tied the set at 24. Estes put the Panthers back on top with a kill, but a kill by Mary deVenoge tied the set again.

A service error from Warren County gave the Panthers another match point, but a kill from Carter tied the set again at 26. Finally, an Estes kill and a block by Settle sealed the victory for the Panthers.

“I think tonight we played some of the best volleyball we’ve played to date,” Atkins said. “I really feel like my girls played together all-around as a team. They didn’t falter. Even those girls on the bench we’re picking the girls on the court up.”

Estes finished with 18 kills and one block, and Settle had six kills and one block.

“I feel like were in a good spot right now,” Atkins said. “I know there’s more that can come from us I don’t feel like we’re at our peak yet. We’re still working on a lot of plays and things like that. Defense is really starting to pick up for us, which we’ve worked really hard on.”

Foulks led the Wildcats with eight kills, nine digs and four service aces.

“We got off some good balls. We made some good passes. We had some good hits. We didn’t put enough of them together at the right time,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to keep working on a few things. We’ll get better. We’ll clean up our mistakes. It’s still early in the season.”

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