Wildcats overcome slow start
STRASBURG – Strasburg raced out to an 11-point lead in the opening game against Warren County in Tuesday night’s Bull Run District matchup, but things quickly turned into a lopsided affair in favor of the visiting Wildcats.
Although Warren County failed to overcome its hefty deficit in the first set, a late rally in the opening frame rejuvenated the Wildcats and they rolled through the final three games to pick up a 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 25-11, 25-8) victory to run their winning streak to four in a row.
“I think we just settled down and started playing our game,” Wildcats coach Dorinda Robinson said. “We just came off a big rivalry match (Monday night against Skyline) so sometimes you get a little letdown. I think maybe we just tend to start out slow, don’t know why. But we picked it up and the last three games were just – I don’t know, I feel like we did everything right those last three games.”
Strasburg (4-7, 1-4 Bull Run) appeared to be setting the tone early as five different Rams notched kills to help build an early 12-3 lead in the first game. That advantage grew to 21-10 later in the set before Warren County (9-5, 3-2) found life in the form of three consecutive blocks and a kill by senior Arianna Smoot, an ace from sophomore Morgan Coons and a kill by sophomore Kaley Foulks that cut the Rams’ lead to 21-16.
“I feel like we’re really team oriented and we try to stay as positive as possible,” Smoot said. “I mean sometimes we get down and our heads hang but then we just have to pull through it, and we usually do. We usually talk to each other and we’re like it’s OK, shake it off.”
The Wildcats eventually pulled within 22-19 after a trio of Strasburg errors before the Rams were finally able to seal the 25-21 victory on a kill by senior Cortney McDonald (match-high eight kills).
Though the rally fell short, it gave the Wildcats a jolt.
“I think that’s what got us going, the fact that we did rally back, that we didn’t fold and just lay down. We just fought back,” Robinson said. “I think that meant a lot for the following three games.”
Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said the fact that the Wildcats were able to turn what appeared to be a runaway win into a competitive set made the Rams start second-guessing.
“For my kids, they play more conservative when that happens,” Mathias said. “And that’s part of being young. I mean we’re so roller coaster right now. Played really good (in a win over Moorefield [West Virginia] on Monday) and then the first set we played really good, and I thought OK it’s gonna be a good match. But then it just kind of fell apart there.”
Warren County’s first seven points of game two came via Strasburg errors, although the Rams managed to keep the set competitive. With the Wildcats clinging to a 17-16 lead, Warren County junior Britney Carter tallied back-to-back kills, which were followed by a Foulks ace and a kill by Lauren Fox to give the Wildcats a 5-point cushion.
Strasburg cut Warren County’s lead to 21-19 before a block and a kill by Fox and a Smoot kill gave the Wildcats the 25-20 win to tie the match.
As Strasburg continued to struggle with unforced errors – the Rams committed 40 over the final three sets – Warren County coasted to blowout victories in games three and four to secure the win.
“It was just one after another. We were like, ‘We have to win. We have to win. We wanna go home early,'” Smoot said with a laugh. “Especially since (the Skyline match) ended so late (Monday), we were super tired. And coming out with the win, it was awesome.”
The Rams, who mustered just eight combined kills over the final two games, struggled at times to beat Warren County’s solid net play. The Wildcats finished with 13 blocks, led by seven by Smoot and two apiece from Carter and Fox.
“I felt like the only thing they did was adjust their block and we just kept hitting it right into it,” said Mathias, who added that the Rams were out-hustled Tuesday night. “We weren’t playing smart at all. I told them, all you had to do was just adjust with them and everything would’ve been OK. But we just weren’t smart.
“And then we would work so hard to get it back and then miss serve after serve – I think this is probably the most serves we’ve missed all season,” continued Mathias, whose team had 11 service errors. “Frustrated about that.”
Carter and Fox led Warren County with seven kills apiece, while Smoot and Foulks each had five kills.
Sophomores Madison Foltz and Daniella Henry (three blocks) had five kills each to lead Strasburg, while Jesse Boyce had four.
Warren County travels to Clarke County for another key district matchup Thursday night, while Strasburg will host Central in a rivalry game the same night.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org.