Handley volleyball sweeps Pioneers
WINCHESTER — It was a special night, indeed.
The Handley volleyball team had plenty of motivation to get back on the winning track on Thursday night when Millbrook paid a visit to Maddex-Omps Gymnasium for a Northwestern District match.
Fresh of a loss to James Wood in five sets on Tuesday for first place in the district, the Judges were determined to play well and also to play inspired for the big crowd on hand for the team’s “Dig Pink” match for breast cancer awareness.
Dressed in pink T-shirts, the Judges held off the determined Pioneers to win a competitive first set and also had to close strong in the third to gain a 3-0 (25-18, 25-12, 25-15) win.
“I just think, all the way around, that Millbrook maybe improved [its] scrappiness from the first time that we played them [also, a 3-0 win],” Handley coach Lindsay Hazelette said. “Just expecting the unexpected. Maybe they were throwing our front line off a little bit with tips.
“I think, also, our girls were really, really pumped up and wanted to come out really strong. We just needed to get our focus back, playing for a good cause.”
The Judges got a solid challenge from the Pioneers for much of the first set.
Handley opened a 6-4 lead, but Millbrook came right back with three straight points. Sarah Duvall collected a pair of aces, sandwiched around a block from Ashley Humphrey, to give the Pioneers a 7-6 lead.
Handley then got the next five points and rolled out to a 14-10 lead after a shared block by Alex Barnett and Ana Ribeiro capped a 8-3 run.
A kill by Taylor Linder returned serve to Millbrook (3-13, 0-5 Northwestern), and after a couple attack errors by Handley (10-3, 4-1), the Pioneers showed their energy on the front line with a vast improvement from previous matches of getting up an effective block.
On three straight exchanges, the Pioneers covered the front well and earned points off blocks.
Brittany Whitacre had a solo block and a shared block, and Linder and Alexa Keeler each had a shared block, as Millbrook took a 16-14 lead.
The Pioneers had trouble contesting Skyline attacks when they lost in three sets to the Hawks on Tuesday night, but the ability to be consistent with the block against the hard-hitting Judges at least gave them a chance.
Millbrook had five players collect at least a shared block in the Handley match, led by Whitacre’s five total blocks.
“We definitely did [show progress] and they learned to play as a team,” Millbrook coach Ashley Sutphin said. “Their enthusiasm was up and I told them to come out and have fun with it. And they did, and I’m real proud of them.
“As long as they go out there and try their best, that’s all I can ask.”
But just when it seemed Millbrook was poised to take the first set, Handley came charging back with a bang.
A kill to an open middle by Lisa Meneau started a swing that saw the Judges close with an 11-2 run to earn the set.
The set was actually tied at 18 before a kill by Dierdre Carter gave the Judges the lead for good.
From there, Barnett closed it out with her serve.
Barnett had three aces, and kills by Carter and Semefa Tettegah during the run sent Handley up a set.
“I feel like, recovering from Tuesday [the loss to James Wood], we needed to stay intense,” Barnett said. “We picked it up a little better as the match went on.”
The Judges rolled easily to capture the second set, and appeared ready to do the same in the third, getting out to a 15-2 lead.
But Millbrook would not go away, steadily finding ways to get its deficit under double digits.
The Pioneers used an 8-2 run, getting a solo block from Humphrey and a kill from Courtney Adams to trail 17-10 and force the Judges to use a timeout.
On the next exchange, Ribeiro got a kill, and the transfer student added another a short time later, and Handley got the momentum back.
Bolstered by Liz Grove’s four kills in the set, and another well-rounded set from Barnett, the Judges were able to gain their sweep.
A pair of aces from Allie Hoffman sealed the deal.
Taking more of an active role at the net and having one of her more complete matches of the season, Barnett came up big often for Handley.
The senior middle collected a match-best five aces, five kills, and three total blocks in the win.
“I think we were able to get our passes up and be able to use our outside/middle and right sides more,” Barnett said. “So, all around, we did better with that.”
Knowing the impact Barnett (an all-district selection last season) can have, Hazelette was happy to see her top middle perform well.
“I think she brought smartness to her offensive attack [Thursday] and was able to find different holes,” Hazelette said. “And, with blocking again, she knows a lot of the Millbrook players from travel ball really well and she was able to help us in that aspect.
“With her serving, it definitely was on [against Millbrook].”
For the Judges, Carter had a match-best nine kills, Ribeiro had five kills and a solo block, Dodson had two kills and three total blocks, and Alison Snow had a match-best 19 assists.
Millbrook got a team-best five kills from Adams, three kills and a match-best five total blocks from Whitacre, and three aces from Duvall.