Digging pink: Central knocks off Stonewall

By Dennis Atwoodsports@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK — In their Shenandoah District volleyball match Thursday night, the Stonewall Jackson Generals and Central Falcons exchanged several long scoring streaks and momentum swings — and committed batches of attack errors — as the Falcons squeezed out close wins in the first and fourth sets to win the match, 3-1 (25-23, 12-25, 25-12, 25-22).

Central observed a Side-Out Foundation “Dig Pink” night and wore dark pink t-shirts for breast cancer awareness.

The Generals’ 35 attack errors dragged them back from the cusp of victory at several points of the match and they were unable to produce a positive follow-up from their first win of the season, a 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-15) victory against Page County Tuesday night.

The Falcons broke out on top quickly in the first set, building leads of 10-1 and 23-11 as the Generals appeared doomed by committing 15 attack errors, omitting the need for the Falcons to employ much offense.

Central’s offense consisted of two kills by junior Rebecca Sigler (10 kills total), a down block for a point and a service ace by Marissa Brandon, and aces by Haley Cahill and Marie Gurganus.

Then the Generals (1-10, 1-6 Shenandoah) made a Lazarus-like comeback, building a 11-1 run kicked off by three consecutive Falcons attack errors, three kills by junior Ashlie Clar (five on the night), and a kill by junior Haylee “Hicklee” Bowers.

Sophomore Michaela Koontz, just brought up from the JV squad, held serve for eight winners, including an ace as the Generals closed the gap to one at 24-23.

On Koontz’s next serve, senior hitter Lindsey Toothman (match-high 15 kills) took a set from Bailey Cook and bashed a cross-court kill for the set-winning 25th point.

“It’s just really exciting to win your Dig Pink game because for the whole season, even in the summer, we’ve been preparing for it with fundraising and so on,” Toothman said. “When it came to tonight, every one was just pumped up and ready to go to work.”

The momentum seesaw was in full swing as the squads exchanged 25-12 scores in sets two and three.

“It seemed like from one side of the court to the other side of the court, there was a shift in momentum,” Falcons coach Allison Huckstep said.

A tight battle unfolded in the second set as the teams fought to a 7-7 tie.

Then Generals went on a scoring blitz, topping their first-set comeback by closing out the set with an 18-5 run to grab the 25-12 win.

Senior setter Whitney Wilkins contributed two aces and two kills in the set (five kills, 19 digs, and seven assists on the evening), supported with two kills by junior Keyana Phelps. The Falcons gave generous help to the Generals by committing nine attack errors and three service errors in the set.

Momentum swung completely to the Falcons’ side of the net in the third set as they thundered out to a 21-6 lead, and the Generals were unable to repeat their first-set comeback.

Central’s offense featured four points by Sigler (three kills and down block), three points by Toothman (two kills and down block) and a triplet of aces by Theresa Barela.

“I think the whole atmosphere, like so many fans came out and supported us, was just great,” Sigler said.

Eight more service errors by the Generals kept them in the ditch.

The fourth set featured another change of character, as the teams exchanged short scoring runs until Central led 15-13.

Then the momentum swing was again set in motion as the Falcons (4-7, 3-4 Shenandoah) executed an 8-1 burst to go up 22-14, only to see the Generals turn the tables with a 7-0 run of their own to trail by one.

After the referees could not make an in or out call on a Falcons hit for a do-over, the squads exchanged an attack error and service error to make it 23-22 Central.
Senior Sonny Preston made an open-spot kill for Central, followed by the match-winning kill by Toothman.

Bailey Cook provided 13 assists for the Falcons.

Taylor Koontz made 41 digs for the Generals.

“The girls played good,” Generals coach Jamie Armentrout said. “They fought until the end and they came back. They didn’t let themselves get down. We just need to finish and get some more points on the board.”

Five matches remain in the regular season for each squad.