Rams put up fight vs. Warren County but again struggle with consistency

Strasburg's Baylee Hodson sets the ball as teammate Daniella Henry looks on during the Tuesday evening match against Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Strasburg’s inability to keep the highs consistently high on the volleyball court has been a source of frustration for head coach Suzanne Mathias-Carter in recent seasons, and the 2018 season has again brought the Rams those bouts with inconsistency. Strasburg’s two matches this week highlighted those struggles.

In a four-set win over Moorefield (West Virginia) on Monday, Mathias-Carter said she saw what the Rams are capable of in terms of movement on the court, helping each other and playing as a unit. The following night against Warren County, Strasburg showed flashes of that same cohesiveness, but not near enough to overcome a talented Wildcats squad in a 3-1 (17-25, 14-25, 25-22, 15-25) loss.

“I feel like we’re doing it against good teams but we’re only doing it in spurts,” Mathias-Carter said after Tuesday’s loss, which dropped the Rams to 5-5 overall. “And I think that’s the biggest frustration right now from my part because if you would just play how you’re capable all the time the match would be so much better. Now I feel like we capitalized on some of (Warren County’s) mistakes, but we adjusted to what they were doing defensively and tried to get some kills that way, so I saw good things. It’s just playing at a different level all the time, not just so sporadically.”

On Tuesday, the Rams played two sets before finding that different level against Warren County, and by then they were trailing 2-0 against a program that reached the VHSL Class 3 state championship game in 2017. Regardless, Strasburg proved it could compete and stole a set from the Wildcats for the first time in five head-to-head meetings with a win in game three, a set that saw plenty of uncharacteristic miscues on the part of Warren County.

Outside of that third game, however, the Rams had trouble getting out of their own way, a dangerous formula against a team as talented as the Wildcats. Though strong from the service line – Strasburg missed just two serves in the match – the Rams committed 26 attacking errors in the loss, all but three of which came outside of the third set.

Strasburg's Kyierra Ashby goes up for a kill during the Tuesday night match against Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily

Mathias-Carter said getting their shots to land inside in the boundary lines has been a problem for the Rams all season.

“It’s just sometimes it’s starting with the pass, other time’s it’s just my setter’s not getting to the ball, and then other times it’s a good set,” she said. “It’s all aspects, it’s not just one certain group of people doing something wrong. My hitters at times are not adjusting to the set, and to be a good hitter you’ve gotta be able to adjust to your sets. And the same thing, the setters need to be able to adjust to the bad passes and put something up that’s hittable. And we’ve talked all the way around about it and they’re open to it.”

Strasburg did receive some offense – junior Kyierra Ashby led the Rams with seven kills, and senior Daniella Henry and junior Lauren Nofsinger added six each – but not near enough to keep pace with Warren County’s powerful attack, led by seniors Kaley Foulks (18 kills) and Lauren Fox (11 kills).

Warren County head coach Dorinda Robinson credited Strasburg with a “scrappy” defensive effort in the loss, though Mathias-Carter said she felt the Rams – who had only three blocks in the match – could’ve gotten their hands on more of Warren County’s shots given their size up front with Henry and Nofsinger. Strasburg libero Kaitlyn Capps was on the receiving end of several screaming shots off the hand of Foulks.

“We’re capable of a little bit better (defense) but Kaitlyn has just been busting her tail in that libero spot, for doing it only for two months,” Mathias-Carter said. “I mean, she’s starting to get more confidence as far as where to be and reading and calling the ball, and you can tell it. She’s starting to constantly be the talker on the court, which is really good.”

Strasburg's Gracie McDonald makes contact with the ball during the Tuesday night match against Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg, which had won three of four prior to Tuesday’s loss, wraps up non-district play next Tuesday at Stonewall Jackson before playing its final nine matches of the regular season against Bull Run District foes.

“This group, they’ve got potential,” Mathias-Carter said. “It’s just, what do they want to put aside and bring to the court as a whole? When they do that, they’re very good. When they put everything aside and just come play volleyball, they’re good.”

Strasburg's Daniella Henry follows through on a kill shot between Warren County's Brianna Hogan, left, and Sydney Nalls, right, during Tuesday night's match in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg's Kassy Bly goes up for kill over Warren County's Morgan Coons, right, during volleyball action Tuesday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily