Sherando volleyball evens the score with Bulldogs with sweep
STEPHENS CITY — Sherando senior Whitney Dellinger was involved in another school activity on Saturday and did not travel with her volleyball teammates to Martinsburg (W.Va.) for a non-district match.
Dellinger has been playing well in the early season and the Warriors likely missed her intangibles in a five-set loss to the Bulldogs.
So when the two teams hooked up again on Monday night, Dellinger was ready to provide a spark and help Sherando turn the result around.
Dellinger helped set the tone early with two kills and four late aces to uplift Sherando to a lopsided win in the first set. Things got a little closer from there, but the Warriors still needed just 65 minutes to pick up a 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-21) sweep past their border neighbors and earn a season-split of the series.
“We fought really hard, our defense was better, we were hitting the right spots, and we played with a lot of intensity,” said Dellinger, who finished up with four kills and a match-best six aces in the win. “We knew they were going to be tough and we just played as hard as we could to win the match.”
Someone that knows a thing or two about how well Sherando can play against his team is Martinsburg coach Wes Hall.
“On Saturday, [Sherando] made more mistakes and we capitalized and tonight we made more mistakes and they capitalized,” Hall said. “I mean, Sherando’s a great team. I’m now 1-11 against Sherando. We were pretty excited on Saturday. We use two teams to kind of [gauge] where we’re at in the season, and the beginning of the [season], it’s always Sherando. How we do against Sherando tells us what we have, and, of course, at the end, it’s [state power] Musselman, for our area.”
Sherando coach Chuck Ashby saw a lot of improvement over 48 hours from his squad in the rematch. Having Dellinger and defensive specialist Anna Haycocks (who also did not play on Saturday) back bolstered the lineup and the Warriors (4-3) hustled all over the floor to stay a step ahead of the Bulldogs (7-2) much of the match.
There were crowning moments: Eight players had at least one kill apiece during the first-set romp, sophomore outside Kelsey Singhas used her size and swing well to compile four kills and a solo block in the second-set win, and Sherando showed resilience in the third set to bounce back from an early 11-3 hole to avoid a fourth set.
“We tweaked some things from Saturday to tonight and I think that helped,” Ashby said. “I think what we learned on Saturday was that we have to play. I think what you saw tonight was teamwork. We had some balls fall in, but for the most part, we had girls covering other girls, and we just moved the ball. We didn’t let down, and that was a big thing for us.”
Part of what adjustment the Warriors made involved getting more sets to taller hitters like Singhas and Michelle Baker. Singhas co-led the Warriors with seven kills, and Baker added four kills to go with three solo blocks to help counter the sometimes dominant displays of Martinsburg’s top hitter, Sophie Foster.
“What I've always told [setter] Blair [Adams] is [to] go with the hot hand,” Ashby said. “And I think in that first [set] that Kelsey was hot. To my knowledge, it’s like a quarterback and receiver — you don’t stop [connecting] until someone stops you. We just kept going to her.
“And I think [Martinsburg] spent so much time worrying about our middle on Saturday, and that’s what we learned — that they single-blocked our middle and then left people out. Tonight we were attacking off the wings and getting [attacks] in.”
The first set saw a lot of back-and-forth during the early exchanges before the Warriors reeled off six straight points to take a 10-5 lead. A solo block by Alaina Combs and a kill by Singhas highlighted the spurt. Sherando kept building the gap and began to pepper Martinsburg from the service line.
With a 14-9 lead, Adams (26 assists) fooled the Bulldogs with a push-kill to the back row. Singhas followed with an ace that went uncovered on the back between two players, forcing Hall to use his second allotted timeout of the set. That ploy did not slow Sherando at all and Singhas nailed another ace.
Later, while holding a six-point lead, the Warriors recorded eight straight points to move within set-point. A kill by Baker got it started, just before Dellinger went to work with her serve. She produced four aces during the 8-0 run and Sherando had a 24-11 lead.
“We were doing really well with our serves tonight,” Dellinger said. “We just found spots.”
Baker’s kill to the back row wrapped up the first-set win. No one had more than two kills for the Warriors in the first set, but eight produced at least one apiece. The Warriors also had six of their 15 aces in the match and recorded just two missed serves.
In the second set Sherando never trailed, but that did not mean things came easily. With Foster and Alexus Bonner bringing the attacks more consistently, Martinsburg got to within 16-14 with a Foster kill. However, Melissa Marshall got good hang time and dropped a dink for a point off the front line and Combs sent a crosscourt kill to raise the lead to four and force a timeout by the Bulldogs.
The lead stayed at least at three until consecutive kills from Singhas and Adams had the Warriors again at set-point, leading 24-18. A couple of mistakes by the Warriors gave the Bulldogs hope, and an ace by Taylor Ferguson cut Sherando’s lead to 24-22. Finally, on the fifth set-point, Marshall caught Martinsburg off-guard with an attack off the near side that fell for a kill.
The Bulldogs played their most inspired volleyball of the night to begin the third set, rolling out to an 11-3 lead behind a dominant display from Foster. A powerful swing saw Foster launch three early kills, and it also saw her add a solo block and two aces for the eight-point lead.
After that, Foster did not get as many chances to hit and finished up with just two more kills in the set.
“I felt like our back row was digging balls,” Ashby said. “I mean, [Foster] is going to get her kills. It’s like playing against [James Wood standout Katie] Houser, but you know it’s a given because they’re going to get kills. What you‘ve got to do is pick up the rest.”
Hall was left beside himself afterward wondering why his top attack option got so few a number of opportunities in the third set with a chance to extend the match. Foster would finish with five kills in each set for a match-best 15 kills, and she cut down her attack errors to just two over the final two sets after having six in the first set.
“We get five balls to her then all of a sudden we forget about her and let her go two rotations where she doesn’t touch a ball,” Hall said. “How do you do that?”
The Warriors gradually chipped away in the third set, going on a seven-point run late to steal the lead. Sherando trailed 17-13 after a Foster solo-block, but freshman MacKenzie Cornwell started a personal late surge with a kill to provide sideout for the Warriors.
A pair of aces by Erin Magalis tied the set, the second one earned when a pass to the front row crossed up two Bulldogs and dropped to the floor. Cornwell, who had four of her team co-best seven kills in the third set, then dropped two straight kills, one with power and the other off a dink. Another Magalis’ ace capped the run and made it 20-17.
Scoring three of the next four points, the Bulldogs were down just 21-20 after a Foster kill. But Foster sent her serve that followed into the net, and Singhas dropped a kill for a three-point lead. Essence Underwood kept Martinsburg alive with a kill, but Bonner sent an attack long to leave the Warriors at match-point.
Baker then sealed the comeback with a kill to the back row off of Martinsburg’s Sara DeJarnett to wrap it up.
“I just think that third set speaks volumes,” Ashby said. “I mean, never once did they seem to look at the score and just say, ‘OK, let’s just go four [sets].’ They just chipped and chipped and kept on.”
Singhas said the Warriors came together and pulled through at crucial times.
“We brought it and we were focused,” Singhas said. “We watched everything they did on Saturday and just picked up our play tonight. We were talking and communicating a lot better than we usually do.”
The Warriors had nine players earn at least one kill and finished with 30 as a group. They also missed only four serves in their sweep of the Bulldogs.