Rams get back on track with sweep of Falcons

WOODSTOCK – Strasburg High School’s volleyball team, mired in a recent skid on the court, needed a get-right match. The Rams got it against their Shenandoah County rivals.

Strasburg went on the road Tuesday night and swept Central, 3-0 (25-16, 25-9, 25-22), picking up its first Bull Run District win of the season. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Rams, who got back to within one game of .500 with the win.

“It was huge,” Rams head coach Suzanne Mathias said after the win. “We were dealing with an emotional roller coaster of playing well and then just playing at rock bottom. And I thought tonight it was a total group effort, bench included. And I’ve told them it’s more exciting, it’s more fun to see them into the game and supporting each other. It was just a lot more fun to watch, and a lot more fun to coach than trying to figure out why they’re not getting along and talking and all that. But I thought they came out and handled some adversity within. They handled it really well.”

Central (2-13, 0-5 Bull Run) played a competitive third set, but the first two games belonged to the Rams (7-8, 1-4).

Strasburg opened the match with a 7-point service run from senior Hannah Alexander and never led by fewer than 3 points throughout the first game. The Rams opened the second set with a 5-1 lead and closed it out with an 8-1 run.

“I think they were just unleashing a lot of frustration over the last two weeks, within themselves, as a team, all of that,” Mathias said. “It’s nice to see them at a level that I like to see.”

The Rams were particularly strong at the service line in the first two games. Though they had five service errors in the first set and seven total for the match, the Rams had 13 aces in the first two sets, including seven from Alexander and four from junior Madi Foltz.

“I’ll take the missed serves with the aggressive serving,” Mathias said. “As long as you’re getting them in, we’ve talked about situational serving, if your teammate has gone in front of you – two or three teammates have gone in front of you – get one or two in and continue what you’re doing. Unless you’re absolutely on fire think about what you need to do to help the team. I thought they handled that really well as far as serving tonight.”

Central, by contrast, struggled on Tuesday night at the service line and in serve-receive.

The Falcons tacked onto Strasburg’s 13 aces by failing to return a serve in three hits on multiple occasions, an ailment Central head coach Alyssa Bane chalked up to her team trying out a new defensive alignment.

“I’m starting to pull my setter back to more in the 1 area right behind the 10-foot line just to cover those deeper balls that we’ve been killed (by),” Bane said. “And I think it’s just now we’ve gotta start focusing on that middle part of getting those little tips and dinks.”

Central wasn’t much sharper on the other end, as the Falcons missed 11 serves. Those struggles at the service line were uncharacteristic for the Falcons, said Bane, who added that her team was sharp in that area in a win over Stonewall Jackson on Monday.

“If we would’ve made our serves in the first and third set it would’ve been a little different. I think the score would’ve been a different outcome if we would’ve just made our serves. That’s something that we struggled with today. I mean (Monday) we didn’t struggle with it so I don’t know if it was just a chemical imbalance of some sort,” Bane said with a laugh.

“Usually they’re pretty good about making their serves and I don’t know if it’s just the nerves got the best of them today just because it was a rival.”

Lauren Nofsinger finished with eight kills to lead Strasburg, while three other Rams – Daniella Henry (two blocks), Delainey Stickley (10 assists) and Kassy Bly – had four kills each. Alexander had 10 assists.

Rachel Irvin (two aces, one block), Darden Lear (one ace), Maria Marston (one ace), Caitlin Hottle (one block) and Anna Smith each had two kills for Central.

Both Central and Strasburg have five matches remaining in the regular season, which ends on Oct. 26.

“I just wanna see them keep talking and playing how they did tonight. I mean it was total team and supporting each other. It was a team, it wasn’t just any one person standing out and dominating,” Mathias said.

“As long as we keep going up, I’m good.”