Warriors fail to finish in loss to Handley

Sherando's Jessica Poole bumps the ball during a volleyball match Tuesday night against Handley in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – Much as it has all season long, Sherando’s volleyball team struggled to hold momentum against visiting Handley on Tuesday night.

The Warriors were able to counter Handley’s first-set victory with a big win in the second game only to see the Judges run away with the third set, then Sherando couldn’t hold a 6-point lead late in the fourth game as Handley picked up a 3-1 (25-19, 16-25, 25-14, 25-19) win in Northwestern District/Conference 21 West action.

“It’s been like that all season,” said Sherando coach James Minney, whose Warriors twice saw Handley pull away after a game was tied at 17-all in the match. “We’ve been playing, we play well, we just can’t finish. We’ve not been able to finish. We’ve lost many matches in four and five sets. We stay with teams and we get to that 17 points, 16 points, and they start taking off from us and we just can’t hold it, can’t maintain it.”

After falling behind 1-0 in the match when Handley (9-8) broke open a 17-17 tie with an 8-2 run to end the first set, Sherando (8-13) responded with big run of its own late in the second game.

With the Warriors holding a slim 14-13 lead, junior Rachel Burton triggered a 7-0 run for Sherando with a block, which was followed by two kills from senior Alaina Paige and a kill and a block from senior Melissa Gaudette to help stretch the advantage to 21-13.

Sherando's Melissa Gaudette goes up to block a kill by Handley's Sarah Snow during volleyball action Tuesday night at Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

“They stayed focused. We did a better job passing,” Minney said of the second set. “We struggled toward the end in passing. Serve receiving was giving us a little bit of a problem. We weren’t getting the ball to our setter in the third and fourth set like we were in the first and second set and I think that was a huge difference.”

A trio of Handley kills cut Sherando’s lead to 5 points before two Judges errors ended the run, and Gaudette followed with her fourth block of the set before Paige’s ace gave the Warriors a 25-16 win and evened the match at 1-1.

“We were definitely communicating more than we were in the other three sets and that definitely helped a lot,” Gaudette said.

Any momentum the Warriors had built from the win was quickly erased, however, when Handley opened the third game with a 16-5 lead powered by seven kills, three aces and two blocks.

“They’re working hard. It’s not like they’re loafing,” Minney said of the Warriors. “They’re young but you can’t use that the rest of your life. They just have to learn to suck it up and play. They’ve gotta focus toward the end of matches. They’re not doing that.”

Sherando's Aliana Paige blocks a hit by Handley's Meredith Watts during their volleyball match Tuesday night in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

Sherando did rally to cut Handley’s lead to 7 points later in game three but the Judges, behind four more kills and two blocks, pulled away to win the set 25-14 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.

The Judges, led by Maggie Wise’s 20 kills, blasted 57 kills as a team in the four sets, compared to Sherando’s 34.

“They just had a really good offense. They just kept pressing it on us and we couldn’t get our sets where they needed to be,” said Gaudette, who led the Warriors with nine kills and six blocks.

Handley displayed its offensive balance in the final game. After Sherando built a 14-8 lead midway through the set the Judges stormed back, scoring their final 11 points on kills from six different players to flip a 16-14 deficit into a 25-19 win.

In addition to Wise’s 20 kills, Meredith Watts had 12, Mya Mintschenko (44 assists) had seven and Martina Malvezzi (four blocks) had six for Handley.

Sherando's Elizabeth Dolsen blocks a hit by Handley's Sarah Snow during volleyball action Tuesday night in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We’re in the same situation we were last year, lack of height,” Minney said. “We’ve got Melissa in the middle but she’s only in three rotations. You take her out and now you’re back to (5-foot-7), 5-8 blocking. Just can’t get the ball in the air. You can’t play defense all your life. You’ve gotta be able to play offense too and we’re always on defense. As long as we’re on defense we’re gonna struggle.”

Paige (two aces) and Cornwell (15 assists) each had seven kills for Sherando, while Burton added six kills and four blocks.

The Warriors close out their regular season with a home game against Martinsburg (West Virginia) on Thursday before hitting the postseason next week. Sherando will be the fifth seed and travel to No. 2 Woodgrove next Monday.

“It’s frustrating but it’s been a good season,” Minney said. “They’re good kids. They’re really good kids. They’re hard-working kids. They just struggle at positions.”

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

Sherando's Melissa Gaudette gets a hit over the outstretched arms of Handley's Martina Malvezzi during Tuesday night's volleyball match in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily