STRASBURG – The noise was deafening.
One by one as players came out of Central’s varsity volleyball locker room, the Falcons’ junior varsity volleyball team and some fans standing nearby cheered and screamed loudly for the team after a big win. The Falcons entered Tuesday’s match with Shenandoah County rival Strasburg having won just one set in five matches.
The Falcons put together their best match of the season for a 3-1 (25-17, 25-23, 17-25, 25-14) victory over the Rams. Strasburg beat Central 3-1 in the first match of the season on Aug. 27. It was Central’s first win over Strasburg in volleyball in five years.
“It feels really good, especially since we haven’t beaten them in a while,” Central senior Maria Marston said as she tried to talk over the screaming going on behind her. “So, to get a win against Strasburg feels really good. We really wanted it and we knew we could do it. We’ve worked hard in practice and we’ve been striving for a win – and tonight was the night for that.”
The Falcons (1-5) started off strong and built a quick 11-7 lead behind some big hitting from sophomore Emily Funkhouser, who had two kills and a block during the stretch.
The Rams (4-1) would cut the lead to 3 points a couple of times but that’s as close as they would get the rest of the set.
“I think we just worked together as a team,” Funkhouser said. “We just came together. Since Strasburg’s our rival we just wanted to beat them so bad.”
The Rams raced out to an early lead in the second set. Strasburg senior hitter Lauren Nofsinger had two kills and a block during the early spurt to help give the Rams a 12-6 edge.
Trailing 20-14 Central made a big rally to get back in the set. The Falcons went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 20-19. After a Central error pushed the lead to 21-19, the Falcons rallied to take the lead. Marston and sophomore Ella Toothman combined for three kills and a service ace by junior libero Kaitlyn Funk gave Central a 23-21 lead.
Central coach Ashlie Clar said she wasn’t sure how her young team, which has five sophomores, would respond in the close set.
“I was nervous because we have a really young team,” Clar said. “So for them to fight back – that shows a lot of growth from the beginning of the season. The first couple of (matches) we would have just given up, but now they work hard and now I have high expectations for them.”
A Central error cut the lead to 23-22 and a service ace by Strasburg senior Kaitlyn Capps tied the set at 23. A Strasburg error gave the Falcons a set point. Central sophomore Erika Hutton stepped to the service line and calmly served up an ace to clinch the set for the Falcons.
“She’s great because she maintains her composure all of the time,” Clar said of Hutton. “She’s never like, ‘I’m so nervous.’ She always maintains her composure and that was huge.”
Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias-Carter said that she could see the set slipping away from her team.
“They kept picking away and I knew we were in trouble when they tied it up and took the lead,” Mathias-Carter said. “It was like we just deflated and just didn’t have the confidence to dig out of it. Not that we don’t have the skill to do it. It’s just mentally we weren’t there.”
The Rams responded in the third set led by three kills from Delainey Stickley and two each from Nofsinger and Kenley Smith. The Rams used a 6-0 run midway through the set to build a double-digit lead and held on to force a fourth set.
The Falcons came right back in the fourth set. Central took a 7-1 lead and led by at least 3 points the rest of the way.
Marston said the win is extra special for her since it’s her last time playing Strasburg in volleyball. Central moved up from Class 2 to Class 3 this year and also moved from the Bull Run District to the Class 3 Northwestern District.
“I told them in the locker room for my senior year that was a great win for me,” Marston said. “I’ll take that and it feels really good.”
The Falcons started the season not only losing their first five matches but also 15 of their first 16 sets. Clar said her team finally put everything together and played well for a whole match.
Mathias-Carter said the Rams, who entered the match undefeated, didn’t play like they were capable and like they had been playing all season long.
“We were just kind of playing as individuals tonight and I don’t like that,” Mathias-Carter said. “Because up until tonight we’ve played team (volleyball). It was a completely different team tonight, and I don’t like the team that I saw tonight.”
Strasburg was led by Nofsinger with eight kills and two blocks and Kyierra Ashby with five kills and a block. Stickley and Smith had five kills each and Gracie Hart had four kills for the Rams.
The Rams host Rappahannock County on Thursday in their Bull Run District opener.
Funkhouser led the Falcons with six kills and two blocks. Marston had five kills and two blocks and Toothman had five kills for Central.
The Falcons host George Mason on Monday in their Class 3 Northwestern District opener. Clar said it was good to get the team’s first win before heading into district play.
“I’m very excited, especially having our first win under our belt,” Clar said of beginning district play. “Now I know what to expect from them. And we’ll just keep working hard in practice and that’s all I can ask.”