Handley volleyball ousts Sherando
WINCHESTER — With a Region II tournament berth and a shot at a Northwestern District tournament title at stake, Handley and Sherando staged one of the most dramatic battles of this year’s volleyball season Thursday.
With all-district hitter Dierdre Carter still unable to play the match, the Judges relied on their depth to get the job done.
The stunning play of a pair of Judges gave Handley the spark it needed to earn a hard-fought 3-1 (18-25, 25-18. 25-9, 25-21) victory over the Warriors, setting up a rematch with rival James Wood — who beat Skyline in the other semifinal — at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the tournament championship.
“I thought we rebounded well from a very disappointing loss last night to James Wood,” Handley coach Lindsay Hazelette. “We came into this match really wanting to take care of business and get in the championship game. We also wanted to get that regional berth, which Handley hasn’t had for many, many years.”
The Warriors, however, had other plans. Trailing 4-1 early in the first set, Sherando fought hard to come back and tied the score 6-6 on a kill by Warrior hitter Cassie Slater. Blair Adams gave Sherando the lead 7-6 on the next exchange.
Handley recovered quickly and neither side was able to pull ahead until late when Slater came alive at the net and the service line to put her Warriors over the top. Leading 22-18, the Sherando senior nailed a kill and two aces to give her Warriors the victory.
Early in the second set it looked as though Sherando was going to ride Slater’s momentum into another win, but Handley hitter Ana Ribeiro rallied her reeling Judges.
“We really didn’t expect them to win that first set,” said Semefa Tettegah, who had five kills and an ace for the Judges. “We knew that we had to win, and we were determined to do what it took to get that win.”
With the Warriors leading 7-3, Ribeiro led a comeback that put the Judges up 12-10 midway through the set. Although Sherando never let Handley build much of a lead, Ribeiro’s play gave the Judges the spark it needed late to even things up in sets.
Ribeiro had six of her 11 kills in the set.
“Most of what we have in the back row are sophomores,” Sherando coach Chuck Ashby said. “I thought that Handley attacked our back line pretty hard, but the way we responded tells me that our young players are ready for next year.”
Heading into the third set two Handley sophomores took over play at the net and led the Judges to the championship match.
“We work very hard on a team concept,” Hazelette said. “Dierdre is a powerhouse for us, but we work hard on not keying on just one player all year. We want to develop everyone, because your top players can get hurt or have an off night and we don’t want that to slow us down.”
Sophomores Alexis Zygmunt and Emily Snow gave their Judges the power at the net that eventually wore Sherando’s defense down.
“We are a strong team on both offense and defense,” Zygmunt said. “We knew that if we just kept hammering away at them we’d eventually get the point.”
With the third set tied 6-6, the pair led a Handley run that left Sherando trailing 16-8 midway through the set. Zygmunt and Emily Snow each scored four kills during the Handley romp. The Judges also got three blocks form Alex Barnett during the set.
With only one set separating the Warriors from the end of their season, Sherando made a fanatical effort to send the match into a fifth set. Their determination kept things in doubt until the final exchange.
With Handley leading 21-13, the Warriors rallied for one of the most dramatic runs of the season. Senior Ryan Magalis stepped to the service line and before she left Sherando had five straight points to narrow Handley’s lead to 21-18.
After a kill by Zygmunt got the serve back for the Judges, a net call on Handley, a kill by Slater, and a 4-touch by the Judges narrowed Handley’s lead to just 23-21. But with the Judges suddenly facing with the prospects of a fifth set, Zygmunt scored her eighth kill of the set, and this one proved to be the match-winner.
The Handley sophomore finished the night with a match-high 14 kills, 12 of which came in the final two sets. Emily Snow’s play in the final two sets was also critical. The sophomore scored six of her eight kills for the night in the last two sets.
Although Ribeiro turned over the limelight to her two underclassmen teammates, she still finished the match with a stellar performance, scoring on 11 kills, a block and an ace.
Slater led the Warriors with 12 kills and two aces.
“Every loss is disappointing whether it’s close or not,” Ashby said. “But we’ve worked hard for the last two weeks to get in the position to surprise somebody in this tournament.
“But you really have to give a lot of credit to Handley. They really played well when they had to, and did what they needed to do after the first set. You hate for the season to end this way, but I’m very proud of the way our girls played tonight.”