Hawks’ struggles at service line emerge in loss to Rams

Skyline's Shyla Schmitz follows through on a kill over Strasburg's Delainey Stickley during high school volleyball action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Skyline assistant volleyball coach Kaitlin Erdman said following Thursday’s match against Strasburg that serving has been the Hawks’ biggest weakness during the early part of the season. The loss to the Rams offered strong evidence of that.

The Hawks weren’t sharp on either side of the service line in the four-set loss (22-25, 22-25, 26-24, 21-25) to Strasburg, missing 28 total serves and surrendering 18 aces, many of which came as a result of poor passing. Skyline struggled all night finding balance on its serves, frequently sending the ball into the net or well out of bounds over the back line.

“I feel like a lot of the time we let our momentum kind of carry us a little far, so I think a lot of the time that we’re missing those serves it’s because our adrenaline’s kind of running,” said Erdman, who was filling in for head coach Erika Berry on Thursday. “We just kind of tell the girls to take a little bit off of it. I think overall they played a really well-defended game, they were putting balls to the floor, so the only thing we can take from it is to work a little bit on serve-receive and getting our serves in the court.”

Skyline’s struggles at the service line have been an off-and-on problem through the team’s first seven matches, Erdman said, and the first set against Strasburg (2-4) – a team that carried a four-match losing streak into the contest – set the tone for what would be a very inconsistent night for the Hawks.

Skyline (2-5) misfired on 10 serves in that opening game, including two over the final three points that helped the Rams secure a 25-22 win and snag early momentum. The Hawks had six service errors in each of the final three sets, including a few that, like in the first set, came at critical moments late in those games.

Skyline's Alana Smith goes up for a kill over Strasburg's Kassy Bly during high school volleyball action Thursday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

In the second set, Skyline held a 22-21 lead but missed a serve to tie the game up before surrendering back-to-back kills to Strasburg’s Lauren Nofsinger. Very late in the third game the Hawks gave up a one-point lead twice on missed serves but managed a 26-24 win to stave off a sweep.

“I think that we try to work a little bit on spot serving sometimes and that becomes tricky,” Erdman said. “But I think a lot of it is just our girls, like I said, their momentum gets them going and so they’re hitting them out of bounds. I think we just need to take some off of it.”

It wasn’t all bad for the Hawks, who have lost five of their last six matches and have been swept in four of those. Despite the struggles, they remained competitive throughout and were in position to win each of the four sets against Strasburg.

The Hawks matched Strasburg’s production on the offensive attack – both teams finished with 27 kills – and tallied 11 blocks and nine aces. Sixteen of Skyline’s kills came over the final two sets.

“I think we’re on a good start. We’re setting up some really, really nice plays,” Erdman said. “Our hitters are doing a lot of work putting the ball down the line and then cross, so I just feel like we just have to keep going with it and the biggest thing for us to work on right now is serving.”

Middle hitter Molly Meador and outside hitter Shyla Schmitz, both seniors, led Skyline’s offense with eight and seven kills, respectively, with Meador also adding four blocks and two aces.

“Our hitters are doing a wonderful job, both Shyla and Molly,” Erdman said. “Molly did a great job of finding the middle of the floor tonight and Shyla did a great job of pulling up and finding (a way) to go over the top of the block with the tip when they were trying to put a big block on her and double up on her.”

Madison Schmitz added three kills and three blocks, the biggest of which broke a 24-all tie in the third game and helped Skyline avoid its fifth three-set loss. Aaliyah Chunn had four blocks, and Adrianne Kinsey led the Hawks with 13 assists.

Skyline returns to action on Monday at Eastern View, a team the Hawks swept in their season opener. The Hawks, who have played just one Class 3 Northwestern District match so far – they beat Brentsville, 3-1, on Aug. 30 – have four more matches against non-district foes before heading into the heart of their district schedule.

In addition to addressing its serving woes, Erdman said the Hawks need to improve defensively to put more of their passes on target so they’re “not making our setters work too hard.”

“Overall I’m really proud of our team because we’re very cohesive,” Erdman said. “We work together. All of the girls have fun together. Practices are enjoyable, they’re working hard, they’re asking questions, they’re wanting to put the work in, so I feel like as the season goes on we’re only gonna get better and better. And I think that each game we just find something that we have to work on a little bit more to get there.”