STRASBURG – Strasburg’s volleyball team had limped into Thursday’s match against Skyline in the midst of a four-game losing streak, a skid that saw the Rams win just three sets in that span. Strasburg had a match it could build on against the Hawks.
Playing with new energy in front of their home crowd, the Rams topped a mistake-prone Skyline squad in four sets to pick up a 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 24-26, 25-21) non-district win, a timely victory for a Strasburg team that hadn’t had one since a five-set win over Stonewall Jackson in its season opener last month.
“We needed that bad,” said Rams coach Suzanne Mathias-Carter, whose team improved to 2-4. “Just morale, energy, confidence all the way around. And that’s what I like to see because they stayed up the entire time, even in the third when we missed – we really hurt ourselves in the third with the missed serves but otherwise I felt that we stayed up. We didn’t hang our heads with anything and just played how they’re capable of playing. No attitude, no nothing.”
Skyline looked willing to aid the Rams in their rebound effort – the Hawks missed 28 serves over the four sets and struggled on the other side of the service line on serve-receive – but Strasburg also did well to limit its own mistakes to capitalize on its opponent’s woes.
The match felt as if it would belong to Strasburg as long as the hosts committed fewer mistakes than Skyline, which dropped to 2-5 overall with the loss.
“That’s what I was thinking but I did not relay that to (my players),” Mathias-Carter said. “And they just, I felt like they kept pursuing and just working hard at getting the ball on the attack instead of tipping or free-balling, which is what we’ve been going to a lot in the last couple matches. It was nice to see and hopefully it gives them some confidence that they can do it and they can play.”
Strasburg’s offense was slow to get going – the Rams had just five kills in the opening set and finished the night with 27 total – but the Rams made up for it with 18 aces, including five apiece from Morgan Richards and Delainey Stickley, and timeliness on what kills they did put on the floor.
In the second set, a kill from Kassy Bly started a 5-0 Strasburg run that included three aces from Gracie McDonald and turned a 17-13 Skyline lead into an 18-17 Ram advantage. Later in the game, Lauren Nofsinger smashed back-to-back kills to break a 22-all tie and give the Rams a final push to a 2-0 match lead.
In the fourth set Bly, Nofsinger and Baylee Hodson each tallied a kill during a run that cut a 12-8 Skyline lead to a point, and Nofsinger and Bly smashed kills on back-to-back points to turn a one-point lead into a 24-21 advantage before McDonald sealed the match with an ace.
Senior Daniella Henry finished with eight total kills for Strasburg, while Bly (three aces) and Kyierra Ashby each notched five kills to help lead the Rams’ attack, which was fueled by Stickley’s 16 assists.
“That all comes down to passing the ball and just getting the pass up so that the setter has multiple options, where we’ve limited ourselves in the past here,” Mathias-Carter said. “But tonight I felt we got it up there and could do (something with it). Still need to be a little more aggressive at the net on a first ball up that’s really close, but I’m happy with what I saw tonight.”
Mathias-Carter said Strasburg’s cause was further aided on Thursday night with the return of senior Maddie Foltz, who had missed the previous four matches with an injury, and the continued return to form of Richards (knee) and Nofsinger (ankle), who also have spent the early part of the season working back from injuries.
Strasburg returns to action next Monday at Page County – a team that topped the Rams in five sets on Aug. 23 – and still has five matches to play before diving into regular Bull Run District play on Sept. 27. The Rams’ lone district match to this point has been a 3-0 loss to Rappahannock County.
“Keeping consistency,” Mathias-Carter replied when asked what she needs to see from her team over the next couple weeks. “Playing like they did tonight throughout now until we start districts and then carrying it over. And continuing to work as a team, and not keeping tabs on anything and just working hard as a collective whole.”