Skyline forces Sherando to four sets in 3-1 loss

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline High School’s volleyball team showed positive signs for the present and the future Thursday night, but still lost to Northwestern District foe Sherando in four sets at Andrew Keller Court.

The 3-1 victory by the Warriors represented the first time that the homestanding Hawks had won a set since losing 3-1 to William Monroe on Aug. 30, but in the end several of the visiting seniors made the difference for the Warriors.

Skyline won the first set, but then Sherando got into gear to take the final three. The respective scores, for the Warriors, were 23-25, 25-19, 25-18 and 26-24.

“Winning that first set was awesome. It was a great feeling,” said sophomore middle hitter Molly Meador who, with senior Nikea Whitmore, showed the Hawks were serious about pulling an upset.

“That’s us. That’s Skyline volleyball. We’re good and we know we’re athletic. It’s just that sometimes we don’t show it on the court. I don’t know what it is. Maybe we had a bad day in school or maybe it’s just drama, natural things, but we put it together tonight,” Meador added.

She put up six kills and five blocks and Whitmore, two classes her senior, had 12 kills for the night.

“I know I felt awful before the game because in warmups I couldn’t get any shots in. I thought I was going to have a bad night,” said Meador.

She did not, and neither did her teammate, Whitmore. The sophomore and senior combined for eight kills and four blocks in the first set, which the Hawks polished off.

As they did in all but the fourth and final set, Skyline to the lead in game on at 2-0.

The Hawks fell behind by five after a kill by Warrior senior MacKenzie Cornwell made it 10-5.

Yet rather than fold in what Skyline coach Erika Berry previously said was something of a “roller-coaster” season, the Hawks fought back before an appreciative home crowd.

From the 10-5 deficit, Skyline cut the difference two, three twice, the latter of which came on kills by sophomore Riley Hirsch and a dual block by Hirsch and junior Courtney Brothers.

Trailing 12-9, the Hawks cut it to a 1-point margin on a pair of errors by Sherando.

Fighting off 2-point deficits twice, the Hawks tied the set at 15-all. The knotting represented the fourth such score of the set.

After a fifth tie and third lead exchange Skyline coach Berry called timeout with her team trailing 19-18.

Out of the huddle, the Hawks forced a sixth and seventh tie before taking a 21-20 lead on a Sherando error.

Yet another lead change and a fifth tie, and the Hawks spread out to a 23-21 lead on a Whitmore kills.

Sherando’s Melissa Gaudette’s kill tied the initial set once more, but a kill by Whitmore and an error on the Warriors handed the first of the four frames to the home team.

Trailing by a set, Gaudette, MacKenzie Cornwell and Alaina Paige, all seniors, concentrated their focus on what was to come.

Gaudette, at 6-foot-1, the tallest girl on the floor, had three kills and two blocks in set two, Paige added five kills and a block and Cornwell tallied three kills and a block in the frame.

“They played amazing defense. They returned everything,” said Gaudette.

Gaudette, Paige, Cornwell and coach James Minney observed three lead exchanges and four ties before opening a 7-4 lead.

They expanded the spread to 9-5 on a Gaudette kill and stretched the score to 14-9 on a Paige combination block-kill.

Skyline was able to cut the margin to two points on three occasions, but an ace by Sherando’s Rachel Burton and a combo block-kill by Morgan Sampson, an unforced error and an errant shot on the Hawks made the scoreboard read 23-17.

Still Skyline forced three set points before Sherando closed out the frame.

In set three, the Warriors led 6-2, but the Hawks worked that deficit to just one point on a Sherando fault.

But leading 10-9, the Warriors ran off six points for a 7-point bulge.

Sherando was comfortably ahead the remainder of the frame, but again Skyline forced the Warriors to two set points before the visitors closed out the frame.

Set four was different. Here, the home team was holding serve, leading anywhere from 1 to 3 points.

Ahead 13-11, Skyline saw Sherando put on an 8-2 run to flip the scoreboard back in the direction of the Warriors. They led 19-15.

Trailing 22-17, Skyline put together a stirring streak, outscoring Sherando 6-1 to tie it at 23.

Hawk sophomore Shyla Schmitz, who had four kills in the set, was instrumental in the comeback.

“It was good for us and our future to see all these sophomores step up,” said Berry.

But Paige’s touch point put Sherando back ahead by 24-23. After a Warrior fault, Gaudette and Cornwell put the finishing touches on the match.

“We got together and said this has to end at four sets. We didn’t want to go beyond that,” said Gaudette.

“They’re going to be OK,” said Berry. “We’re looking forward to this part of the season and the future.”