Wildcats sweep past rival Hawks

FRONT ROYAL – When things were tight in the third set, Warren County had plenty of motivation. The Wildcats wanted to pull off a sweep and get off the court, and they were able to do just that.

The Wildcats swept cross-town rival Skyline, 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-20) in the Conference 28 tournament quarterfinals. Second-seeded Warren County advances to the semifinals where it will host third-seeded Riverside at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Warren County senior Arianna Smoot said. “It was a really good game for us. It’s probably one of the best we’ve played, honestly, together as a team. We usually play together as a team, but everybody had at least one great thing, if not more.”

The third set was tied 14-1, when the Wildcats began to pull away. They went on a 7-0 run, including two kills each from Smoot and Kaley Foulks.

A kill by Skyline’s Jessica Sims ended the run, and started one for the Hawks. Skyline was able to cut the lead to 23-19 on a block by Shyla Schmitz.

Warren County coach Dorinda Robinson called a timeout, and the Wildcats regrouped. Warren County’s Britney Carter and Mary deVenoge each had a kill to close out the match.

“We were kind of anxious at the end, because we were like, ‘Oh no, uh-oh,'” Smoot said. “Then we were like, ‘We can do this. We want to win this game. We have to win this game.’ So we did.”

Throughout the match the Wildcats showed they have a lot of balance on the front row. The Wildcats had multiple hitters stepping and coming up with the kills when the team needed it.

“We don’t have just one big hitter like we had a two years ago. Autumn Troxell – she was our go-to hitter,” Foulks said. “We don’t have a go-to hitter this year. We have everyone. Everyone can hit. Everyone’s a reliable hitter. We can switch around the set. Wherever we go we know someone’s going to get a kill. So that’s really nice.”

The Hawks came out strong in the first set. Two kills by Schmitz and one by Molly Meador helped give Skyline an early 3-2 lead. The two teams went back and forth until it was 8-8.

A kill by Warren County’s Lauren Fox started a 12-4 run. Carter had a kill and a block, and Smoot and Cunningham each added a block for Warren County during the spurt.

In the second set, two kills each by Smoot and Foulks helped the Wildcats build a 12-5 advantage. A kill by Schmitz and two blocks by Meador helped the Hawks pull within 15-10, but that would be as close as they would get.

The third set was back and forth early on, much like the first set, until the Wildcats pulled away at 14-14.

“I thought we passed really well,” Robinson said. “We started tipping and finding some holes. I think we played an overall good game.”

Skyline coach Erika Berry said she thought her team was a little nervous and played too tight, and were trying too hard to be perfect.

“They just always focus on perfection, and we can’t be perfect,” Berry said. “And that’s actually probably when were going to make more errors. It’s just going to take time and growing.”

Meador and Schmitz each had four kills and two blocks, and Nikea Whitmore had five kills to lead the Hawks. The loss ends Skyline’s season with a record of 3-18. Berry said the Hawks will miss seniors Sims, Allison Crescienzi and Whitmore.

“Losing these three seniors is going to be tough next year,” Berry said. ” It’s going to be tough to replace that spirit on Skyline volleyball.”

Smoot led the Wildcats (14-7) with eight kills and two blocks, while Foulks had seven kills. Carter had four kills and three blocks, and deVenoge added four kills for the Wildcats.

Warren County will play for a regional berth Wednesday at home, and the players said they are confident going into the match.

“We are very excited,” Smoot said. “We’re going to practice really hard (today), and we plan on winning. We want to get to regionals – that’s our goal.”

“It would be so good for us,” Foulks said. “This is the best team I’ve been a part of, and I think the best team that’s come through in a couple of years. And if we can get to regionals that would be amazing.”

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