To the Central and Skyline coaches, it was a key district game. To Hawks senior Aaliyah Chunn, it was something even more important: a must win.

“In the first set it started out tough, but we knew we had to beat them,” Chunn said after the game.

The Hawks delivered, beating Central in straight sets 30-28, 25-22, 25-21. In the first set, Skyline was down 24-20 but battled back. Junior Meghan Haun kept the serve and Skyline tied things up at 24. After a few back and forth points, Skyline got an ace from senior Alli Haffer followed by a kill from Adrianne Kinsey to take the first set 30-28.

“It was definitely fun and exciting,” said Skyline coach Erika Berry after the match. “I wish we could minimize our errors and just go out and dominate.”

Berry was pleased with her team’s mental toughness in the game though. Although the Hawks made mistakes, they didn’t give up a set to Central in a key district match. Central led at some point in each of the three sets, but they were unable to take one from the Hawks.

“The whole season we’ve just been talking about mental toughness,” Berry explained.

Chunn added that it’s something the team works on every day, not just on game days.

“It comes with making sure you’re not putting yourselves down and you’re picking others up,” she said.

She said the team’s ability to continuously battle back in each of the three sets shows that emphasis is working. In the second set, Skyline trailed 11-6 early, but tied the score at 13 and then maintained a lead until they won on a Kinsey ace.

Then in the third set, Central held a 20-19 lead, but Skyline took that set 25-21, with Chunn recording a block and two kills in the last four points.

“That was an absolute heartbreaker,” Central coach Ashlie Clar said. “The girls played their hearts out.”

Clar said when she spoke to her girls in the locker room after the game she said she was proud of their effort, adding that the team’s serve-receive, something they’ve emphasized in practice, was better than usual in the loss.

In the end, the Falcons just couldn’t match the Hawks’ firepower. Chunn finished the game with 14 kills and 3 blocks for Skyline. Hawks Senior Alli Haffer added another nine kills. Senior Maria Marston led all Falcons with seven kills. Ella Toothman and Keeyarra Dodson added another four a piece.

Both teams continue their seasons next week. On Monday, Central will host Stonewall Jackson. On Tuesday, Skyline travels to William Monroe.