Cooper, Rams celebrate win over Central

STRASBURG – Friday was Strasburg volleyball senior Cassie Cooper’s 17th birthday, but the Rams co-captain was able to celebrate Monday too – in a big way.

Cooper’s all-around game led Strasburg to a 3-1 sets victory over cross-county rival Central (25-22, 23-25, 25-9, 25-15) before a standout crowd at the Rams’ gymnasium.

Afterward, a young fan gave her a red rose.

Cooper led all scorers with 10 kills and four aces as her team took the 1-0 lead over I-81 rival Central. More importantly, the Strasburg victory, its third in the last five games improved the Rams to 5-7 overall, 2-4 in the Bull Run District and 1-2 in Conference 35.

Central fell to 0-6 in the Bull Run, 0-4 in the conference at 1-11 overall.

But Central coach Alyssa Bane said it doesn’t really matter what the records are.

“It’s Central-Strasburg. You can throw everything else out,” she said.

Indeed, it seemed like the host Rams were primed for an upset after going ahead 1-0 in games.

Strasburg came back in the first set from a 10-4 disadvantage. The Rams cut it to six on a 6-0 run. The streak was punctuated by a series of Falcons mistakes.

The hosts got it within 11-8 to cut the once formidable lead from a half-dozen to three.

Even though Central pushed back to 15-11 on a mistake by Strasburg, the Rams tied the match at 17. The knotting was the first of the initial set.

Central pushed ahead 22-19, but Strasburg scored six tallies in a row for the 1-0 lead.

Strasburg 6-foot-2 sophomore hitter Daniella Henry posted five kills and two blocks in game one.

Having lost the game one win, Central clawed its way ahead in the second set.

After four ties and a lead change, the Falcons jutted ahead 12-8 – the largest lead of this second encounter. Middle hitter Kila Watson produced a kill and an ace for Central.

But Strasburg fought back to another tie at 12; it was a Cooper kill that put the Rams ahead by 13-12 before a timeout.

“Volleyball is a game of streaks so it’s a matter of staying confident. It’s always a good thing to gain the momentum, but you’ve got to maintain it, too,” said Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias.

After a Strasburg timeout, the teams traded points until a kill by Rachel Irvin expanded the lead to 2.

Trailing 19-17, Strasburg jumped ahead 21-19 on Strasburg junior Hannah Alexander’s serve.

“Hannah was great. She served well, and then she told me where to serve it,” Cooper said.

A Cortney McDonald ace gave the Rams their last 2-point advantage of the second set. In fact, it was their final lead of the set.

Central closed with four straight points on Central senior Olivia Gochenour’s service.

“I don’t try to kill it, I just try to keep it in play,” said Gochenour.

But it was serving that brought Strasburg back in game three and for the remainder of the match, really.

Lefthander Alexander’s service produced an 11-6 lead and the Rams just kept pouring it on.

After the 25-9 match put Strasburg ahead 2-1, Central tried to get some traction. The Falcons led 9-5, before a kill by Cooper seemed to turn momentum.

Strasburg struck for six straight points and the first lead change in game four.

The Rams built it to 16-10.

Cooper’s kill shot literally rode the top of the net as if on wheels until it fell helplessly into Central’s side of the court for a 21-12 lead enroute to the 10-point victory.

It was that kind of night.

“Cassie has been playing for me for the last five years,” Mathias said. “She’s been on the varsity since she was a sophomore.”

“We lost, but we worked hard. We’ll get ’em next time,” said Central’s Gochenour.