Key runs power Wildcats to sweep Dragons

FRONT ROYAL – Slow starts have marked many matches for Warren County High School’s volleyball team this season. That trend continued for the Wildcats on Thursday night against visiting William Monroe, but they were able to withstand it.

Warren County used a 9-0 run late in the opening game to pick up a win, rode that momentum to a blowout victory in the second set and rallied again late in the third frame to sweep the Dragons, 3-0 (25-18, 25-10, 25-22), for a Conference 28/Bull Run District victory.

“Sometimes we start off and we’re a little anxious but once we get in the flow of things we really get in a groove,” Wildcats senior Mary deVenoge said, “and then we just do what we know how to do and put the ball down.”

With Warren County (11-8) needing a late rally to avoid an early deficit to the struggling Dragons (3-12), it was an 8-point service run by senior setter Taryn Post and three kills from deVenoge that powered the Wildcats’ comeback in the first game.

Trailing 18-16, the Wildcats pulled even after back-to-back Monroe errors before deVenoge’s spike found a wide-open hole in the Dragons’ defense to give Warren County the lead. Post followed with an ace, then assisted on kills by Britney Carter, deVenoge and Lauren Fox on consecutive points that gave the Wildcats a 23-18 lead.

Another Dragon error followed, and deVenoge – off another assist from Post, who led the Wildcats with 12 – smashed a shot that glanced off a Monroe blocker before finding the floor to end the opening set.

“I knew we were down so I think that just kind of gave me more momentum to pick us back up and keep going,” said deVenoge, who finished the night with six kills. “My team helped me do that.”

Warren County needed no such rally in the second set. Riding the momentum from the previous game, the Wildcats extended their scoring streak to 18 unanswered points when they opened the second frame with a 9-point service run from sophomore setter Morgan Coons.

“Service runs basically got us through tonight,” said Wildcats sophomore Kaley Foulks, who smashed three of her match-high nine kills during Warren County’s run to start the second game. “We came out slow but the service runs were definitely helping us.”

Coons tallied four aces during the service run, including three straight that built Warren County a 9-0 lead.

“She’s usually a pretty consistent server,” Wildcats coach Dorinda Robinson said of Coons, who finished the night with five aces. “I know they hate receiving her in practice.”

The Wildcats’ lead stretched to 17-3 in the second game before William Monroe trimmed the deficit to 8 points with its own 6-0 run, but Warren County countered with an 8-1 spurt to claim the 25-10 win.

“They pulled it together. They had some good plays,” Robinson said. “I gave them a little freedom on offense to go out and try some different sets or work on things that maybe you’d not work on in a game. But they had fun, that was the main thing.”

Attempting to fend off the sweep, William Monroe held a 21-16 lead late in the third game, but the Wildcats had another rally left in them.

Warren County’s 9-1 run to seal the sweep began with Coons’ tip for a kill, which she followed by assisting Foulks and Carter on back-to-back kills to pull the Wildcats within 21-20.

A kill by William Monroe’s Kelsey Shifflett out of a timeout gave the Dragons a 2-point lead but Carter countered with back-to-back kills, and Wildcats junior Cor’shauna Cunningham smashed a booming spike on a free ball at the net off Foulks’ serve to give Warren County a 23-22 lead.

Foulks (three aces) followed with an ace and a Dragon error ended the match.

“We just knew we had to get it back together,” deVenoge said. “We just got tired at the end so it was like, ‘We’ve gotta finish this.’ So that’s what we did.”

Carter finished with seven kills and two blocks for Warren County, while Arianna Smoot had six blocks and a pair of kills. Coons had 10 assists.

The Wildcats have four games remaining in the regular season – all in the Bull Run District – including matches against Central and Strasburg next week.

“I was just pleased with the way they played,” said Robinson, whose team had lost three of four entering Thursday night. “… We played well the last two games we lost (to) George Mason and (Rappahannock County). I thought we played well. Saw a lot of good things and just kind of encourage them to continue to do that, and if they can then the wins will come.”

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