WOODSTOCK – Shannon Vernick never had any doubt. Her team was down two sets to zero. They were playing in a noisy gym on the road, but the Warren County senior knew her team was capable of making the comeback.
“We’re going to five games,” she told her teammates after Central took the second set.
Vernick was right. Warren County defeated the Falcons in a thrilling five-set match, 19-25, 17-25, 25-22, 26-24, 18-16.
“It was definitely a game of ebb and flow,” said Wildcats coach Lesley Detweiler. “We were playing so well at times but we couldn’t keep it up.”
Detweiler says the biggest difference in her team's play after dropping the first two sets was a change in their mindset.
“We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win, and you can’t win that way,” she explained.
Vernick, one of only two seniors on Warren County’s squad, helped turn around the young team. Not only did she urge and encourage her younger teammates but she also stepped up her play. Detweiler says her passing and serving improved as the match went on. Vernick finished with seven aces and five digs, both team highs.
“Since we are such a young team you have to pick up your teammates,” Vernick said. “You have to reward every little thing that they do.”
One of the younger teammates she helped pick up was freshman Atori Lane. Lane and Morgan Ellinger each finished the game with nine kills but seven of Lane’s nine came in the fourth and fifth sets.
“Being a freshman, I rely on her to play all six positions,” Detweiler said after the match while pointing out that just one year ago Lane was playing middle school volleyball.
The Wildcats' offensive star was Brianna Hogan, who has been the team’s most important offensive player throughout the year. The first time Hogan played Central she had 22 kills. This game her goal was to beat that, and she did, posting 31 in the five-set match.
On the Central side, the Falcons played a tight match despite not having one of their most important players. The team’s main setter, Erika Hutton, was unable to play due to an illness. Central found out Hutton, a sophomore, would be unable to play just 30 minutes before the game. That meant Falcons coach Ashlie Clar had to make a quick game-plan change. The team, which had just started using a single setter formation, switched to a two setter set-up, with Ella Toothman and Alyssa Thorpe splitting up the duties normally filled by Hutton.
“I literally texted them and said, ‘Are you guys OK with setting?'” Clar said. "And they said, ‘yes’ and I was like, ‘Good because that’s what we’re going to do.'”
Clar was pleased with how Toothman and Thorpe stepped up. Thorpe finished with 14 assists, while Toothman had 13. They were able to set up a variety of Central hitters, with Maria Marston, Emily Funkhouser and Keeyarra Dodson all picking up more than 10 kills. Marston led the Falcons with 15 and also posted four blocks and five aces. Clarissa Cook was also a star on the service line, posting nine aces, including four in the final set.
Central has a little time off before playing Skyline on Tuesday. The Hawks beat Central in a tight contest last month. Warren County’s next game is Tuesday against Brentsville.