FRONT ROYAL — Skyline only had six regular starters but still put up a strong effort Tuesday night.

The Hawks fell short to undefeated Clarke County 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-23) in non-district volleyball action. Skyline coach Erika Berry said she had to bring up two players from junior varsity so the team would have eight players. Half of the varsity squad is out due to COVID-19 issues.

“When you come out and you only have six (varsity) girls it’s a little rough,” Berry said. “But I can’t be mad at them. I think they came out and they used what they have and they went for it.”

The Hawks (1-3) got off to a slow start and trailed 13-3 early in the first set as Clarke County’s Bella Stem picked up a couple of kills.

Skyline battled back with three straight service aces from senior Kyra Whitmore and a kill by junior Madison Ramsey to cut the lead to 20-15.

Clarke County (3-0) regrouped and finished the set off aided by two Skyline service errors.

“Sometimes people get into serving funks,” Ramsey said. “I was in a serving funk tonight — it happens. And it shows what we need to work on as a team and how we can get better.”

The second set was more of the same as Clarke County built an early lead that was too much for the Hawks to overcome. Skyline cut an early deficit to 11-9 on back-to-back Eagles’ errors. Clarke County then went on a 9-2 run led by kills from Stem and Abigail Peace.

Clarke County coach Skyler Layton said her team was too up and down against the Hawks.

“I don’t feel like we played to the best of our ability,” Layton said. “I don’t think we stayed consistent throughout the entire match. It’s the first day of school and I think they were tired in their heads. And probably weren’t in the right space energy-wise and mentally today.”

In the third set, it was the Hawks who brought the energy.

Skyline raced out to an 8-3 advantage led by two kills from Whitmore.

The Eagles battled back and took leads of 13-9 and 16-12, but the Hawks didn’t go away.

Two kills by freshman Audrey Lacombe and one by Jamie Kelly helped the Hawks retake the lead, 19-18.

Clarke County came right back with kills from Stem and Keira Rohrbach to take a 21-20 advantage. The two teams traded points until a service error by Skyline senior Victoria Nguyen tied the set at 23.

A kill by Peace dropped right on the line and a Skyline error on the next point sealed the Eagles’ win.

“I wish we could have taken that one,” Berry said. “I think that would have changed the momentum a little bit. But they fought and that’s something to be proud of, especially for us. We didn’t give up. We kept with them.”

Clarke County was led by Stem with 11 kills and Peace with three blocks. Freshman Allie Lynch had 17 assists.

The Eagles have won three matches against Skyline and Warren County and play East Rockingham on Thursday.

Layton, who said her team was also short-handed on Tuesday with three players out, said the non-district matches could help prepare the team for district play.

“It’s kind of a practice process,” Layton said. “It’s kind of a trail and error. It shows us what we need to work on and gives us an idea of what we have for whenever we play those conference games.”

The Hawks are dealing with COVID issues for the second time this season. Berry said they didn’t even make it through tryouts before they had to shut the team down to start the year.

“Unfortunately, our season has started with a lot of people in quarantine, and it’s just every day you don’t know who’s going to go,” Berry said. “... But it’s just like this is the season we’re dealt, let’s play the cards we have and have fun with it. We have nothing else to lose.”

Ramsey led the Hawks, who had three freshmen on the varsity team Tuesday, with five kills and Lacombe had four kills.

Skyline plays at Sherando on Thursday.

Ramsey said she believes the team can still have a strong season.

“I really think if we put our minds to it we can kick some butt, if we really try,” Ramsey said. “Because we have talent. We have the talent, it’s just I don’t think we believe we have the talent — but we do. I’ve seen it in practice. We can do it. I’ve seen it on the court.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com