Falcons top Generals for first volleyball win since 2014

QUICKSBURG – At the beginning of the high school volleyball season, Central’s players wrote the words “finish strong” on a sticky note. Prior to Monday’s road game against Stonewall Jackson, Falcons head coach Alyssa Bane added a little bit more to her team’s adopted slogan – she wanted them to start strong, as well.

After dropping their first six sets of 2016, the Falcons snagged a game one win over the Generals on Monday night, then rode the resulting momentum to a 3-1 (25-15, 14-25, 25-23, 25-16) non-conference victory. It was Central’s first win since the middle of the 2014 season.

“I’m so excited,” Central senior hitter Bree Pifer said. “It just sets the tone for the rest of the season. Now we all know that we’re capable of winning. For me, I haven’t won a game since sophomore year, so it’s really exciting. Now we know we can do it. We can put it all together.”

Noticeably answering Bane’s call for more energy, the Falcons (1-2) seized momentum early in the first game, using a 6-1 run – powered by a kill and an ace apiece from Pifer and fellow senior Kila Watson (six kills) – to stake a quick 8-3 lead. That advantage stretched to eight points before an ace by Generals senior Jessie Pechie triggered a 6-2 Stonewall run that included a block and two kills from Madison Long cut Central’s lead to 15-12.

Senior libero Alisia Turner flipped the game back in Central’s favor with a seven-point service run that included four aces, which put the Falcons up 22-12 before they sealed the 25-15 win.

“I told them to come out strong the first game and I put them, a lot, into different situations,” said Bane, who is in her first year as Central’s head coach. “They did, they responded well and they just did a really good job, and they knew coming into this game that they had a chance to win.”

The Generals (0-3), who committed 13 unforced errors in the opening game, limited themselves to just three in game two while Central took its turn struggling with miscues. Stonewall gained separation with a 10-2 midway through the set that turned an 8-7 lead into an 18-9 advantage before closing out the 25-14 win with a 6-0 run that included a kill and a block by Emily Ball and a pair of aces from Long to even the match.

“That is how they need to play every night,” Generals coach Lindsey Dinges said. “They have the potential to be really good if they play like they played the second game. The first game – I don’t know what it is. It almost seems like they’re not focused. If everyone does their job we could be very successful. If everybody does their job. Central wanted it more than us.”

Two lopsided games gave way to a competitive third set as neither team gained a lead larger than four points – a margin the Generals held twice midway through the game. Central used a key 6-0 run behind two kills from Pifer (match-high eight kills) and a pair of aces from Bailey Gale to claim a 16-14 lead and would not trail again in the match.

Stonewall cut Central’s lead to a point four times late in the third game but the Generals missed their final three serves of the set, including one that gave the Falcons a 25-23 win and a 2-1 lead.

“It came down to serves but we … really just shook the second game off and I was proud of us for doing that because sometimes it’s hard to come back after a loss,” Pifer said. “We just came out firing.”

Central put the game away by racing out to a 15-4 lead in the final game, a charge fueled by a six-point service run from Pifer that included three aces, and the Falcons led by no fewer than seven points the rest of the way.

“I don’t normally serve but we messed up the rotation with the libero, so I knew it was up to me and I just told myself I could do it,” said Pifer, who had four of Central’s 19 aces in the match.

Olivia Gochenour added five kills and two aces for Central, while Turner (six aces) and Gale each had 10 digs. Rachel Irvin had 14 assists for the Falcons.

Long and Blank led Stonewall with seven kills apiece. Pechie had four aces and 26 digs, while Juliana Brill had 17 assists.

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