Colonels gut out 5-set victory
STEPHENS CITY — James Wood’s volleyball team found itself in some unfamiliar territory against Sherando in Thursday night’s Northwestern District match.
The Colonels had only dropped one set against district opponents heading into the match, but Sherando took two sets from James Wood to force a decisive fifth set.
James Wood needed to rally twice in the fifth set, but the Colonels overcame an early five-point deficit to edge Sherando 3-2 (24-26, 25-12, 25-14, 23-25 and 15-12) to remain unbeaten in district play.
The Colonels improved their record to 16-3, 5-0 district but needed to survive a five-set thriller to give coach Jill Couturiaux her 100th victory with the program.
James Wood junior outside hitter Lindsey Painter said her teammates wanted to make sure they pulled out the match to get the milestone victory for Couturiaux.
“We turned it around and found the fight within ourselves,” said Painter, who led the Colonels with 18 kills. “Last [win] she told us it was her 99th so we were excited to do it for her.”
The Colonels looked poised to close Sherando (8-8, 3-3) out in the fourth set after Brandi Griffith’s ace gave James Wood a 22-18 lead. But Sherando responded, getting a kill from junior hitter Michelle Baker and then the Colonels made three straight hitting errors to knot the score at 22.
Sherando took control from there, scoring two straight on a service point from Erin Magalis followed by a kill from Mackenzie Cornwell that brought Warriors coach Chuck Ashby off the bench for a big fist pump and forced a James Wood timeout.
On the first set point, the Colonels got a kill from Painter to cut it to 24-23, but the Warriors closed it out after a service error by James Wood.
The late rally in the fourth gave Sherando the momentum early on the fifth set.
The Warriors capitalized on two service errors and then two more hitting errors by Wood that sparked a 5-0 run and an early 7-2 advantage for Sherando.
James Wood rallied from there, tying the score 7-7 after a Sherando hitting error. That proved to be the first of seven ties the rest of the way.
A net violation on Wood gave Sherando a 12-11 advantage, but Painter followed with a kill to knot it for the seventh and final time at 12-12.
The Colonels closed out the match on a 4-0 run, getting a kill from freshman Leilani Burch, an ace from Griffith followed by Painter’s third kill of the set on match point.
“It was really intense but just knew we had to keep our heads up and keep pushing,” said James Wood senior Molly Tierney, who had 10 kills and three blocks. “Whether we were up or down we had to play every point like it was game point and never let up.”
Although the Colonels made 28 hitting or service errors, Couturiaux credited the Warriors’ performance.
“I thought their libero [Erica Scully] played tremendous defense and No. 10 [Baker] put up an amazing block against our outsides, Couturiaux said. “I think for them — those [two] were the spark plugs for their team. They kept the ball alive to frustrate our offense.
“I was impressed with Sherando’s defense, and as far as my girls go — gosh, we were hot and cold tonight. It definitely took a while to get into a rhythm.”
After losing to Wood in three sets in the first meeting on Oct. 1, Ashby said his team gave a tremendous effort.
“I even told [assistant] coach [James] Minney after the fourth game when we were starting to inch back a little bit — I said ‘if we go five and happen to lose in five I’m still going to be so proud of these guys,’” Ashby said. “Every one of them — their faces were red, they were sweating and taking shots whenever they had them and all those things. Give credit to our defense, our offense — everybody.
“We had so many balls where I thought there was no way we were going to get and somehow we got and sent over. I think the big thing with a team like James Wood is they’re not going to give you too many third and fourth chances. Their ability to score in big chunks hurt us.”
Couturiaux called it and hot-and-cold performance, and the Colonels were definitely on in the second and third sets, stringing together points in bunches.
The score was tied five times in the second set until James Wood took the momentum away with a 13-0 run. Junior Ashley Hillyard capped the run with three straight aces, giving the Colonels a commanding 22-9 advantage. Hillyard, who had 25 asssists and six aces, scored five points in the run, and Painter also added five kills for Wood.
James Wood never trailed in the third set, taking a commanding lead with six-unanswered points midway through the set to stretch the lead to 20-9. Tierney had a kill and a block in the middle of the run, and Painter and junior Ally Iden (33 digs) closed out the match with five straight points — getting three kills from Painter and two aces from Iden.
Couturiaux liked that her team was able to pull through even though they gave several points away with hitting or service errors.
“I’m definitely proud of the way they performed at the end,” Couturiaux said. “They definitely made [my 100th win] a memorable one — that’s for sure.”
Sherando never trailed in the opening set until a Warrior violation for a lift gave James Wood a 24-23 advantage. An errant hit by the Colonels tied the set for the third time, and Whitney Dellinger’s block put Sherando ahead for good. On set point for the Warriors, a violation on Wood gave Sherando the first set 26-24.
Despite the loss, Ashby liked his team’s scrappy play and effort throughout the match.
“Even when we played the first time I didn’t think I had to go and revamp the lineup completely,” Ashby said. “I felt like we were right on it and on the right track. I’d love to see them one more time, and I wish there was a district tournament — but that’s the way it goes.”
Sophomore hitter Kelsey Singhas led the Warriors with 14 kills. Cornwell added six kills, and Baker chipped in with two kills and four blocks.
— Contact Robert Stocks at firstname.lastname@example.org
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