One win away: Wildcats close in on state tournament berth after sweeping Dragons

Warren County's Britney Carter goes up to block a hit by William Monroe's Jordan Shortridge during last night's Region 3B Quarterfinals held at Warren County High School. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County High School’s volleyball team romped through Class 3 Northwestern District competition during the regular season, going unscathed in league play and winning the program’s first district championship since 2003. The Wildcats kept the momentum rolling in their first playoff match of the season.

Warren County faced a familiar foe in William Monroe in the Region 3B tournament quarterfinal round at home on Tuesday night and the top-seeded Wildcats got a familiar result, sweeping the No. 8 Green Dragons 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-8) to advance to Thursday’s semifinal game at home against Culpeper County with a state tournament berth on the line.

Tuesday’s victory, the third sweep over William Monroe for Warren County this season, extended the Wildcats’ (17-4) winning streak to 13 straight matches. They have 11 sweeps in that span.

“We know we’re on a winning streak but we never come into a game thinking we’re gonna win because we’ve won 13 games in (a row),” Wildcats junior outside hitter Kaley Foulks said. “We’re just positive and confident. We know that we can come together and win a game. I think we just take our positivity really into the game, and the fact that we know we can play. We know if we play the way we can play, we can beat anyone.”

The Wildcats certainly flexed their muscles early against William Monroe, as they raced out to a 14-1 lead in the opening set behind a balanced offensive attack. Senior middle hitter Britney Carter was the focal point for Warren County’s offense early, as she tallied five kills during that initial run. Fellow senior Nikki Roof had a pair of kills and an ace in that span as well, and Foulks later blasted four kills to stretch that lead to 20-6.

Warren's Lauren Fox concentrates on a hit during last night's Region 3B Quarterfinal at Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We were all excited for this game throughout the whole day,” said Carter, who had seven kills in the opening game and finished with 12 in the match. “Before the game we were all dancing around, singing. We were excited. We came out excited, and I think when we’re excited and having fun like that we play a lot better.”

Warren County, which has now swept Monroe (6-13) three times this season, got a little complacent, however, and saw the Dragons cut the lead to 20-12 in the first game with a 6-0 run that included four Monroe blocks and some poor passing from the Wildcats.

Warren County head coach Dorinda Robinson, whose team closed the first set with a 5-2 run after she called a very vocal timeout, said with a grin after the match that the Wildcats righted things after a “few words of encouragement” from their head coach.

“They knew that they had to pick the game up, that they didn’t want to have to play extra games,” Robinson said. “They knew they were a better team than that. That’s what I just kept telling them, you’re better than this, you’ve gotta play better than that.”

William Monroe kept things competitive early in the second game before the Wildcats broke a 7-7 tie with a 7-1 run fueled by three Lauren Fox kills, a Foulks ace and a block by Cor’shauna Cunningham. Carter and Foulks helped Warren County blow the game open by combining for eight kills over the second half of the set.

Warren County's Brianna Hogan goes up to block a hit by William Monroe's Jordan Shortridge during last night's Region 3B Quarterfinals held at Warren County High School. Rich Cooley/Daily

Foulks, who had over 300 kills during the regular season, led Warren County with 15 on Tuesday night. The Wildcats finished with 36 kills as a team over the three sets, while junior Morgan Coons dished out 34 assists.

“We’ve gotten so much better in our back row throughout the season, and when we pick that up we can definitely get our passes up. But the main thing that I think separates our offense from all the other teams in our region and our conference is the fact that we have so many hitters that get double-digit kills,” Foulks said. “… It’s not just me, it’s not just Britney, it’s everyone that gets kills. Our offense is definitely our strongest point.”

The Dragons helped hand Warren County a 25-8 win in the third game by committing 15 attacking errors in the set.

The Wildcats host Culpeper County in the Region 3B semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday. A win guarantees them a spot in the VHSL Class 3 state tournament. Warren County swept the Blue Devils – another Northwestern District foe – in both regular season meetings.

“They’re excited. They’re ready to move up to the next one and we know that each one’s gonna be harder than the one before,” Robinson said.

“We’ve talked about it a lot and they all understand and they know they’ve come a long way. They don’t wanna fall short of their goal right now. It’s theirs if they want it.”