FRONT ROYAL — Warren County volleyball coach Lesley Detweiler wanted her team to do a better job of finishing off games and on Tuesday night they did just that.
The Wildcats picked up their first win of the season with a 3-1 (18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-12) Northwestern District victory over Central.
“The first game we were a little bit slow, made a lot of mistakes, really kind of killed ourselves,” Detweiler said. “Then finally the second, third and fourth we came around and started putting the ball in the court and we did a lot better.”
Led by seven service aces, the Falcons took an early lead in the first set and didn’t look back.
“I don’t know how many aces we had in that first set, but we looked really good,” Central coach Ashlie Clar said. “We were hitting the ball, we were serving the ball, and then we completely fell apart towards the end — everything fell apart.”
Detweiler said once her team started doing better with serve receive and getting the ball back in play it turned the match around. It also brought Warren County senior hitter Brianna Hogan to life.
Hogan had nine kills in the second set as the Wildcats built an 18-10 lead.
“It was really exciting,” Hogan said of the second set. “Everybody got the pass to the setter and the setter got it where it needed to be. It was a good game.”
The Falcons came back aided by a kill and a block from senior hitter Maria Marston and a kill and two aces from sophomore hitter Emily Funkhouser. The Falcons cut the lead to 23-20.
The Wildcats held a 24-22 lead and Hogan finished it off with a tip-kill to even the match at one set apiece. Throughout the match Hogan was able to mix power with touch on her kills to keep the Falcons off balance.
“You got to change it up,” Hogan said. “You can’t always go for the hard kill. You got to have good placement of where the ball needs to be going.”
It was more of the same for the Wildcats in the third set. They built an early 11-3 lead and had to hold off several Central rallies. The Falcons cut the lead to 11-10 on two aces by sophomore Bailey Spiggle and a kill by Funkhouser.
The Wildcats led by the play of freshman hitter Atori Lane, who had two kills in a 5-1 run, helped stretch the lead back to 16-11.
The Wildcats (1-8, 1-1 Class 3 Northwestern) held a 22-16 advantage before the Falcons went on a 7-0 run, including back-to-back kills by sophomore hitters Keeyarra Dodson and Ella Toothman, for a 23-22 lead.
“I will say that’s something we struggled with all year — playing all the way to 25,” Detweiler said. “But then also once we’re up, staying up — just kind of letting the other teams creep back in. So tonight we made it a point like ‘OK we’re not letting the ball hit the ground on our side. We’re putting it over the court and in.’ That was a key to tonight was putting the ball in the court.”
A service error by Central junior Alyssa Thorpe and two errors from the Falcons gave the Wildcats three straight points to win the third set.
Clar said she felt like her team had the momentum going into the fourth set, but that’s not the way it turned out.
“They fought so hard, came back from eight points down,” Clar said of her team’s play in the third set. “Then we fell apart early in the fourth game and we just couldn’t pick ourselves up.”
Once again it was Hogan who took over for the Wildcats. She had five kills early in the fourth set to help Warren County build a 10-2 lead.
“We look to her a lot offensively,” Detweiler said of Hogan. “And tonight she was on and it really helped us.”
Hogan finished with 22 kills to lead the Wildcats. Clar said they had no answer for her.
“They set up (Hogan) and (Hogan) is very good, very good,” Clar said. “She hit it where our defense was not and that just brought us down a lot.”
Hogan said it was a team effort and that she couldn’t have done it without everyone else on the team.
“Everything’s coming together,” Hogan said. “We’re all doing good. Everyone’s being a team. We’re all acting as one, it’s not just one single person doing everything.”
Marston led the Falcons (2-7, 1-2 Class 3 Northwestern) with four kills, four blocks and three aces and Funkhouser had five kills and three aces. Thorpe had seven assists for the Falcons.
Lane had 11 kills for the Wildcats and junior setter Alexis Pitsenbarger added 24 assists.
The Wildcats have advanced to the Class 3 state semifinals or finals each of the last two years, but lost most of last year’s starters to graduation. Detweiler is also in her first coaching the Wildcats.
Warren County was coming off a four-set loss to Handley and a five-set loss to William Monroe. Detweiler said it was nice to see her team finally pick up a win.
“We’ve been really close these last few matches,” she said. “And to finally come out and have the win I think that just shows the strength of our team — not only mentally staying in it and being willing to go through that tough beginning of the season to get to this point — but also just how much we’ve grown as a team too. It’s my first season with these girls and so we’re still learning and feeling each other out. And hopefully as the season progresses, that just gets better and better.”