FRONT ROYAL — Warren County knew how important it was to keep its momentum going against its cross-town rival. That motivation helped the Wildcats dig down deep to finish off a sweep Tuesday night.
Warren County used a furious rally in the third set to beat Skyline, 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 28-26), in Class 3 Northwestern District volleyball action.
“Passing was the biggest difference to begin that third game,” Warren County coach Lesley Detweiler said. “We got ourselves in a hole, but then we kept going, we kept pushing. We didn’t give up. I think that really is a sentiment to how much we’ve grown. Normally we would kind of put our heads down and move onto the next game. But we were like ‘no we can do this’ and we did and we pulled it out.”
The Wildcats trailed 17-8 in the third set as Skyline senior hitter Aaliyah Chunn had three kills and a block early in the set.
But Warren County’s two seniors stepped up and brought the Wildcats back to life. Warren County senior Shannon Vernick served four straight points, including an ace to cut the lead to 17-13.
Chunn had another kill for the Hawks to extend the lead back to 19-13. However, Warren County senior Brianna Hogan stepped to the service line and rattled off five straight points, including three aces, to tie the set at 19-19.
“Me and Shannon just had to be role models — as we’re seniors,” Hogan said. “And tell everyone that it was OK and to calm down and get that good pass.”
The two teams went back and forth from there. The Hawks were haunted by missed serves, as they were most of the match.
Two missed Skyline serves helped the Wildcats stay even in the set. Skyline used a Warren County service error and two unforced errors to take a 24-21 lead.
The Wildcats came right back with a kill by freshman Atori Lane and two errors from Skyline to tie the set at 24-24.
Skyline senior Alli Haffer had a kill to put the Hawks up one last time at 25-24. A kill by Hogan and an ace from Warren County freshman Jamie Kelly gave the Wildcats a 26-25 edge. A service error from Kelly tied the set one last time, 26-26. Another kill by Hogan and an ace from Vernick sealed the victory for the Wildcats.
“I think we had a lot of energy tonight,” Hogan said. “Coming out knowing it was our rivalry game and knowing that is was mine and Shannon’s last year, we wanted to make the most out of it for all of us.”
The two teams traded service runs in the first set. Warren County raced out to an 8-1 lead, but the Hawks battled back to pull within 8-7 and eventually tied it at 13-13. Skyline took a 14-13 lead on a Warren County error, but it would be the Hawks’ only lead of the set.
The set stayed close until Hogan and Lane combined for three kills and a block to win six of the last seven points.
Detweiler said she was pleased with how many hitters were involved and that they just didn’t have to rely on Hogan.
“We did a really good job spreading the ball around tonight,” Detweiler said. “I felt like we got all of our offensive weapons going and I felt like that helped so that Skyline couldn’t just focus on Bri (Hogan) or just one offensive player for us tonight.”
The Wildcats took an early lead in the second set and didn’t look back. Hogan said she’s seen a lot of improvement from the young squad, which includes three freshmen and three sophomores.
“They’re playing better,” Hogan said of the younger players. “Some of them don’t have confidence as well as some others. So we’ve been working on getting their confidence up and it’s been working a lot.”
Warren County (4-9, 4-2 Class 3 Northwestern) lost a lot of players from last year’s squad to graduation. The Wildcats have advanced to at least the Class 3 state semifinals the last two years.
The Hawks (6-7, 4-2 Class 3 Northwestern) came into the match with a three-match winning streak and they were alone in second place in the district, but the loss sent them into a tie with Warren County for second place. Skyline coach Erika Berry said that most of the Hawks’ issues were mental on Tuesday.
“We had a lot of unforced errors, 11 missed serves and you can’t win volleyball games that way,” Berry said. “And unfortunately (the missed serves) that’s just one of those things that it’s you and the ball and you got to figure out how to get the ball in play. And especially with a team like that, that’s picking up everything, you can’t give those points to therm. So it really hurt tonight. And our passing wasn’t great. So we really went back to some old stuff that we thought we’d left in the past, but when you play a cross-town rival all those feelings come back.”
Chunn led the Hawks with six kills and four blocks and Haffer had four kills. Skyline senior setter Adrianne Kinsey had 10 assists.
Warren County was led by Hogan with nine kills and Lane with six kills and a block. Warren County junior setter Alexis Pitsenbarger had 12 assists.
Warren County started off 0-8 this season, but the Wildcats have won four of their last five matches. Hogan said beating their biggest rival makes the team’s success even sweeter.
“It’s special because people told us we wouldn’t be able to do it,” she said. “And we did it and we proved them wrong.”