Warriors fall flat in district tournament loss to James Wood

WINCHESTER – Sherando High School volleyball coach James Minney had hoped the momentum his team had built from a five-set loss to Handley last Friday night would spill over into Monday’s Class 4 Northwestern District tournament quarterfinal matchup against James Wood. Instead, the Warriors fell flat.

The No. 4 Colonels breezed to a three-game sweep over fifth-seeded Sherando, winning 25-11, 25-19 and 25-14 to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal matchup at No. 1 Millbrook. The Warriors, meanwhile, saw their season come to an end with the loss, their seventh in the final nine matches.

Minney said after the loss that the Warriors “just didn’t look good.”

“I thought we would come in and play better,” he said. “I really thought we’d come in and make it competitive – win or lose it’d be competitive. We just didn’t have the drive and just didn’t show the emotions and just didn’t play.”

James Wood, which lost a coin flip to Handley for the third seed, used extended runs, a balanced offensive attack and stiff defense at the net to bury Sherando for the third time in as many meetings this season.

The Colonels, who did not lose a game to Sherando all season, had 10 blocks in their latest victory over the Warriors – including seven from senior Morgan Biggs and three from Gillian Kleiderlein – and had eight players combine for 32 kills over the three sets.

Junior Taylor Robinson led James Wood with eight kills, while freshman Kristyna Van Sickler had seven kills and Kleiderlein five. Jessica Putnam, the Colonels’ “go-to” attacker according to head coach Paul Hillyard, had four kills.

“That’s the first game that we’ve been able to spread it out that much,” Hillyard said. “But we feel comfortable with a lot of our attackers and tonight it worked for us.”

James Wood was also solid at the service line, particularly early, as the Colonels stroked five aces en route to building a 15-9 lead in the first set. In all James Wood served up 11 aces in the win.

“I thought (we) put some pressure on their serve receive and they weren’t able to get in the system,” Hillyard said. “That’s been our game plan all year and we really did a good job tonight.”

Sherando had managed to stay competitive early in that opening set but was outscored 16-3 over the final 19 points and saw James Wood close the game with 10 straight points.

James Wood used another run in the second set after Sherando seized a 12-10 lead with a 7-0 run that began with a kill by senior Liz Dolsen, included four straight Colonel errors and back-to-back aces from senior setter Morgan Sampson. The Colonels answered with six straight points to regain the lead and built their advantage to as much as eight points before staking a 2-0 lead with the 25-19 win.

James Wood started the third game with an 8-3 lead and Sherando never closed the gap to fewer than three points the rest of the way.

The Warriors struggled to generate much of an offense – they finished with 15 kills as a team (Dolsen and junior Amanda Wink each had four kills) – a problem Minney said stemmed from their inability to get proper passes to their setters.

“Our passing started out poor and it never did recover,” Minney said. “We passed poorly all night long, and serve receive was bad all night long.

“We were scrambling trying to just set anything we could set while they were just setting anybody they wanted,” he added. “That was the difference in the game.”

Sherando also was plagued by numerous double-contact calls on set attempts.

“The number of double contacts was unbelievable that we had,” Minney said. “… Those are easy balls to play and they’re just lack of focus on just something that simple. We had to have 15 doubles at least, and that’s 15 points you give away right away.”

Minney said he had expected a better outcome in what was the first match against James Wood this season that the Warriors were at full strength, after senior outside hitter Rachel Burton, junior libero Kaylee Bryant and junior middle hitter Gabrielle Bauer dealt with injuries this fall.

“Just didn’t play well at all and there’s no excuse for it,” Minney said. “They’re a good team. They played well. They hit well. They hit hard. (It’s) hard to play them defensively. I don’t know if we could’ve beaten them but I think we could’ve done a little bit better showing and that’s kind of disappointing in some ways. But it’s over. We’ve got three (seniors) leaving and eight coming back, and have to regroup and see what we can do from here.”