Falcons rally past Rams on senior night

WOODSTOCK – Central’s six volleyball seniors couldn’t have scripted a much better senior night than the one they had Thursday.

The Falcons rallied from an early deficit and pulled out a 3-2 (11-25, 25-18, 17-25, 25-20, 15-5) victory over Shenandoah County rival Strasburg in Bull Run District action.

“It is probably the biggest accomplishment of our entire season,” Central senior Bree Pifer said. “Not only beating Strasburg on our home court, but the fact that it is our senior night makes it mean that much more to everyone not just the seniors. It feels awesome.”

Trailing 2-1 in sets, the Falcons trailed early in the fourth set, 9-7. The two teams traded errors until a push by Haleigh Myrtle fell in for a winner and cut the Strasburg lead to 11-10.

Central’s Rachel Irvin then stepped to the service line, and reeled off 10 consecutive points. Irvin had five aces, and Pifer had a kill during the run.

The Rams made a late rally, but it wasn’t enough as the Falcons forced a fifth set.

It was all Central in the final set. The Falcons raced out to a 5-1 lead, including an ace by Central’s Bailey Gale.

“I told them that we only go to 15, so they needed to start out strong,” Central coach Alyssa Bane said. “They couldn’t give them any points, and they did that right away. They went out strong and never let down.”

The Rams (6-14, 3-11 Bull Run) were able to cut the lead to 6-4. A Strasburg error extended the Central lead to 7-4. The Falcons went on another big serving run, this time on the serve of Myrtle.

A kill by Irvin and a block by Kila Watson helped give the Falcons a 13-5 advantage.

Two points later, an ace by Central’s Olivia Gochenour sealed the victory.

“We just had awesome serves, and we were able to keep ourselves up,” Pifer said of the final set. “Even if we lost a serve or something we were able to get it back right away. I was proud of us for getting that big of a lead and keeping it.”

The Rams started off strong in the first set. Two kills by Daniella Henry and one by Mikayla Kohlhaas helped give the Rams a 10-3 edge.

Strasburg’s Cassie Cooper and Madison Foltz each added two more kills as the Rams pulled away in the opening set.

“We played,” Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said of the two sets Strasburg won. “We passed it. We hit it. We got our serves in. We communicated and played volleyball. The other sets we just didn’t play. We didn’t communicate. We didn’t attack the ball. We tried to not make a mistake.”

Central (2-18, 1-13 Bull Run) came out strong in the second set. The Falcons were able to build a 6-3 lead, aided by a kill each from Darden Lear and Anna Smith. The two teams went back and forth until a 10-5 run helped the Falcons pull away. Gochenour and Watson combined for three aces during the spurt.

Gochenour finished the set off with an ace, and the Falcons had seized momentum of the match.

“It was huge, because then we knew what we were capable of,” Pifer said. “We knew how well we could play together, and we just knew that we needed to do that again for every set.”

Strasburg’s Cortney McDonald sparked the Rams in the third set. The senior had six kills during the set.

“Cortney’s one of my consistent ones,” Mathias said. “She’s a senior. I can always look for her. She doesn’t get rattled. She usually goes and plays the entire time. Overall, I thought she played pretty good.”

McDonald finished with 10 kills and one block, while Henry had six kills and two blocks to lead the Rams.

Strasburg will host Central on Monday in the first round of the Conference 35 tournament at 7 p.m. Mathias said her team needs to put Thursday’s loss behind them.

“We just got to be ready to play,” Mathias said. “They’re going to come in with the momentum and at this point you got to forget it. You got to practice hard (Friday) and come ready to play in the tournament and move forward.”

Pifer led the Falcons with six kills, while Watson had four kills and two blocks. Lear added five kills for the Falcons.

The Falcons had lost 16 consecutive matches, and it was the first time the seniors had beaten Strasburg in volleyball in their varsity careers. Pifer said it was the perfect way to end the regular season.

“It is super special,” Pifer said. “It is definitely a game that I will always remember, and I’ll just remember the team and the atmosphere. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this feeling right now.”

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