FRONT ROYAL –Warren County was facing a Culpeper squad with some height on Thursday night. The Wildcats played smart, worked around the Blue Devils size and reached a new plateau as a volleyball program.
The Wildcats beat Culpeper, 3-0 (25-17, 25-8, 25-12), in the Region 3B tournament semifinals. The win secures Warren County’s first-ever state berth.
“We get to go to regional championships,” Warren County junior hitter Lauren Fox said. “And we get to go states, which is super-duper exciting. So we’re one step closer to getting a regional championship.”
The top-seeded Wildcats host Manassas Park in the Region 3B tournament final Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Wildcats will then play on Nov. 11 in the Class 3 state tournament quarterfinals.
It was the Wildcats 14th straight victory, and the third time this season they defeated the Blue Devils.
Warren County junior hitter Kaley Foulks said that Culpeper’s ability to block presented a challenge for the Wildcats.
“They scouted us a little bit, and they were ready to block (Britney Carter) and I,” Foulks said. “But we sped up our offense a little bit. And we were hitting smarter instead of harder. So I think that’s what really helped with their height.”
Fast starts also helped the Wildcats. Warren County jumped out early in all three sets. The Wildcats scored the first six points of the opening set, including a kill each by Foulks and Carter.
The Blue Devils (10-11) slowly climbed back into the set. Culpeper cut the lead to 19-16 on an ace by Natalie Heiser.
The Wildcats, who never trailed in the entire match, responded with six of the seven final points. Carter had a kill and a block, and Fox had a kill during the stretch.
Warren County (18-4) raced out to a 10-3 lead in the second set, including two kills each from Foulks and Fox.
Fox said the balance the Wildcats have on the front line is a big part of the team’s success.
“We all have our good nights, and I wouldn’t really say we have bad nights,” Fox said. “Some of us are going to be on, and some of us aren’t going to be as on. But I think everyone on our team is super-duper consistent. And I think that’s really awesome, because we know that (Warren County setter) Morgan’s (Coons) going to give us a good set and we can put it down.”
At the start of the third set, Foulks and Fox combined for seven kills to help give the Wildcats an 18-2 lead.
“Towards the end of the (match), we all just talked to Morgan (Coons) and said we’re just going to put it down. We’re just going to close the game,” Foulks said of the stretch. “And Morgan’s (Coons) just awesome with mixing up the set. She’ll go me, me, Britney. She’ll just mix it up a lot, because that always throws the defense off. And Lauren and I work really well together because we’re best friends.”
The Blue Devils were able to score six straight points, but the Wildcats were able to bounce back and finish off the match.
“I thought we came out energized, I guess is a good word,” Warren County coach Dorinda Robinson said. “They communicated, they talked. They figured out where plays needed to go, which is what they’ve done all year long.”
Foulks led the Wildcats with 13 kills, while Fox added eight. Carter had four kills, and Cor’Shauna Cunningham had two kills for the Wildcats.
Foulks said it’s great to know that this year’s team is making history by advancing to the state tournament.
“It’s awesome, it feels so good,” Foulks said. “We’re so excited. We’re going to come out on Tuesday, and we’re going to be ready.”