Warren forces Riverside to five sets, drops conference semifinal

Warren County's Arianna Smoot leaps to block a hit by Riverside's Loren Class during Wednesday night's Conference 28 semifinals in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County’s volleyball team pushed defending conference champion Riverside to five sets Wednesday, but lost in tournament play to finish the Wildcat season.

The 3-2 victory by the Rams (13-9) replicated the Conference 28 semifinals between these teams from 2015. The hosting Wildcats (14-8 this year) lost that one in three sets as Loudoun County’s Riverside closed out the ‘Cats, then moved on to the conference finals.

The winning Rams will visit Brentsville to compete for conference champion. Because of their win here Wednesday night, they will qualify for the Region 3A East championships, which follow the conference tournament.

“It’s tough to go on the road and win five by five sets and then to go on the road again to play Brentsville, again,” said Riverside coach Samantha Ingersoll.

“We went down swinging so I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. But they not only have one player in the middle that’s good, they have a couple of them,” said Warren County coach Dorinda Robinson.

Warren County's Kaley Foulks goes up for a kill over Riverside's Madeline Mandanis during Wednesday night's Conference 28 semifinals held in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Those would be 2015 all-3A first-teamer Soraya Hayes and Kendall Boxe. Hayes, a senior, collected 16 kills, two blocks and two aces, while Boxe picked up 12 kills and three blocks.

Hayes controlled portions of games herself, otherwise Warren front liners Arianna Smoot, Kaley Foulks and Cor’shauna Cunningham did a good job of fighting back after the first set and played stealth defense most of the way.

Smoot came up with 11 kills with eight blocks, while Foulks had nine kills and key services. Cunningham had six kills and one block.

Smoot, Foulks, Cunningham and others did more than just score points and stop others. All three were on the floor for digs throughout the game, and senior co-captain Nikki Roof, a junior, served well.

On this night, that was not quite enough as Riverside coach Ingersoll was subbing in players like Christianna Stephenson, a 2015 all-conference member, late. Stephenson, just a sophomore, collected three kills and an ace in the fifth and deciding set.

Warren County's Kaley Foulks goes up against Riverside's Ashley Schaberg during Wednesday night's Conference 28 semifinals in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

The only set the Wildcats failed to contest was the first.

Warren jumped ahead 7-3 and led 12-6, when the point production went Riverside’s way.

The Rams ran off a 7-2 stretch to make 14-13 on a Boxe kill.

After the game was tied for the third time at 15-all, the Rams went on another run. They made it 17-15 when the Wildcats called time out.

Nothing seemed to slow the Rams down and, with Soraya dominating, they controlled set one, 25-16.

Warren County's Haley Schneider bumps the ball during volleyball action Wednesday night against Riverside. Rich Cooley/Daily

They had scored 19 of the set’s last 23 points.

The ‘Cats were down 8-2 in set two and Robinson, again, sensed a timeout was needed.

After resuming play, Smoot came out and scored a kill, followed by another spike by Cunningham to cut the lead to four.

Nonetheless, the resourceful Wildcats tied the set at 10 and then went to work.

They scored 3 straight points after Smoot blocked a shot by Hayes to make it 13-10 Warren.

The match was tied for the seventh time at 23 when Lauren Fox dropped in a kill. An unforced error on the Rams gave the hosts the victory and a 1-1 sets tie.

With seemingly more Wildcat fans on hand after two sets than were courtside in the pregame, Warren County continued its hopes of pulling off the win. After three lead changes, Warren County found itself down 17-12. This was when, in order, Roof and Smoot handled most of the next services. With them holding serve for the most part, those two helped work the ‘Cats into an 18-all tie.

At 21-all, the ‘Cats showed their closing power. Two errors had the Rams move into a timeout, but Foulks scored a kill to bring the Warren County fans to their feet. Cunningham watch a Riverside shot hit out-of-bounds and the Front Royal team had moved ahead of the visitor, 2-1, in sets.

Certainly the home team coaches, their players and their fans had the momentum coming into the fourth set.

Warren County trailed 7-2 and though the Wildcats pulled within 12-11 on a Smoot kill, the Rams held on.

They were ahead 16-12 when the hosts battled back. They outscored the Rams 5-0 with Smoot doing most of the damage and tied the match on a Britney Carter kill.

After a Riverside timeout, the Rams went ahead by 20-17, but once again the Wildcats willed themselves back. With Foulks at the service line, they got it to 20-19, but Riverside was able to hold off the ‘Cats by scoring the final two points.

At 2-2, the match went to sudden death.

Warren County tied the match twice and forced Riverside to a pair of match points before succumbing 15-13.