Wildcats advance to state semifinals with sweep of Dragons
FRONT ROYAL — Warren County hasn’t had many competitive matches during its winning streak this season, but on Saturday that changed — and the Wildcats pulled out another victory to advance to the volleyball Class 3 state semifinals.
Warren County beat Park View (South Hill), 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 26-24) but all three sets were very competitive in the Class 3 state quarterfinals. The Wildcats have now won 16 straight matches, and 14 of those have been in straight sets.
“It was rough, but we’re a close-knit group,” Warren County junior Lauren Fox said. “So even when it’s rough we find a way to pull it out — and that’s what’s important.”
Warren County coach Dorinda Robinson said she didn’t feel like her team played its best, but they made the plays when they had to.
The Wildcats (20-4) showed their fight in the third set. Trailing 22-15, they stormed back to win 11 of the next 13 points to seal their first-ever state semifinal berth.
“They wanted it,” Robinson said. “They didn’t want to have to go to a game 4. We did what we needed to.”
A kill by Warren County junior Kaley Foulks started the rally and cut the deficit to 22-16.
Warren County’s defense played a key role on the next point with a couple diving saves to keep the point going. The rally went back and forth until a Park View error helped cut the lead to 22-17.
“Whenever one of us dives for a ball we’re just hoping that it gets up and it’s a good pass for us,” Warren County senior Nikki Roof said. “And when it does work out, it just makes it even better. We go on top and we use it.”
Foulks said winning the long rally was the turning point for Warren County’s comeback in the third set.
“When you win a really long rally like that it’s definitely a mood changer,” Foulks said. “If you win a really long rally you’re going to go in to the next point really excited. And if you lose it, it really changes the game.”
Park View (18-6) had three straight errors to cut the lead to 22-20 and Fox followed with a kill. A Warren County error gave Park View a 23-21 edge, but the two teams then traded back-to-back points.
Trailing 24-22, the Wildcats won the last four points. A Fox kill, a block by Roof and a kill by Britney Carter helped send the Wildcats to the state semifinals.
Foulks said the team wasn’t playing well during the third set, and they just came together and figured out what they needed to do.
“We pulled together and we talked about what we were doing wrong and what was working,” Foulks said. “We just pulled it together.”
The Wildcats had their ups and downs in the first two sets as well. Warren County built an early 6-point lead, but the Dragons stormed back late in the set.
Park View used a 6-1 run to tie the set at 24-24. A Park View service error and an ace by Warren County’s Nicole Sayre gave the Wildcats the opening set.
The Dragons led for much of the beginning of the second set, but three straight kills by Foulks gave the Wildats the lead for good at 13-12.
With the score knotted at 23, back-to-back kills by Warren County’s Cor’Shauna Cunningham and Fox gave the Wildcats a 2-0 set advantage.
Fox said Warren County just needed to play better, and realize they controlled their own fate.
“I think we just kind of finally realized it was us,” Fox said. “They weren’t beating us. We were beating ourselves. And we realized that we just needed to pull it together.”
Robinson said the match was a good test for her team and she was happy they won despite not playing their best.
The Dragons were led by Katherine Mosier with 13 kills, while Courtlyn Hawkins had 11 kills.
Foulks led the Wildcats with 17 kills. Fox had 13 kills and Carter had seven kills.
Warren County will play at Southampton at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the state semifinals. The winner of that match will play the winner of the Hidden Valley-Lord Botetourt semifinal in the state finals at Virginia Commonwealth University at 3 p.m. Nov. 18.
Foulks said she believes the Wildcats will play better in the state semifinals than they did on Saturday.
“I definitely think since we didn’t play as well (Saturday) that we’re going to have a really good chance to come in and beat (Southampton),” Foulks said. “I definitely think we are capable of beating (Southampton) on Tuesday. We just didn’t play as well as we could have tonight.”