Strasburg volleyball sweeps Clarke
BERRYVILLE — As the second half of Bull Run District schedule gets into swing, Strasburg volleyball coach Suzanne Mathias is hoping her team can come more together and make a move or two up in the standings.
Judging from Thursday night’s three-set sweep at Clarke County (25-18, 25-22, 25-21), the Rams are on their way.
“This is probably the best we’ve played as a team,” Mathias said. “They stayed up the entire time. Our biggest thing this season has been the roller coaster — we play really well, then play really [inconsistent], then really well. But I felt we stayed up all three sets tonight.
“There were a couple passes there in the second set that weren’t very good, but I thought we bounced back and did OK. Overall, I’m pleased with the team’s performance as a whole.”
And though they got swept and won just one set in two matches against Strasburg this season, the Eagles could take plenty from their loss. Clarke County (3-9, 2-7 Bull Run) made strong pushes late in both the second and third sets before falling short of extending the match.
“That was probably the best [match] we’ve played from start to finish so far this season,” Clarke County coach Seneca Sowers said. “It’s hard to tell the girls to take away so many positives from a loss, but [even] coming off a win [the Eagles beat district foe Manassas Park on Tuesday], this is the best we’ve looked this week. From [set] one to [set] three, we looked awesome.”
What helped Strasburg (8-4, 5-4) withstand Clarke County’s late-set comebacks was the strong play of senior middle Allison Bromley at the net.
Even late in the first set, Bromley showed she was ready to lower the boom and carry the Rams through. Bromley had kills for points 22, 24, and the set-point. On the first of her kills during the run, a free ball came to the net, and as Bromley started her approach, Mathias shouted “Hit it.” Bromley brought her swing down and earned the point with ease.
Mathias has tried to encourage Bromley to have more of a presence with the attack. Bromley would get 10 of her match-best 12 kills over the first two sets, and the two she got in the clinching third set came late to make sure Strasburg wrapped up the win.
“She’s been playing well and I’m trying to keep building her confidence,” Mathias said. “Just keep [her] attacking the ball. Attack, attack, attack.
“She was calling [for] it this evening. Even during timeouts, she was talking to the setter, calling [for] the ball. And I said [to her], ‘What did you just say,’ because it hasn’t been like that. I’m on her because she wants to get in that ‘tip-game’ and free-ball it over.”
Throughout the match, Strasburg was much more consistent with scoring runs and utilizing a very deep bench. Setters Marissa Doman and Christian Hepner saw about the same amount of court action and each finished up the match with 13 assists apiece.
The ability for Bromley to hit down with her attacks caused the Eagles plenty of concerns, but it wasn’t necessarily a one-player show for the Rams. Seniors McKenna Orndorff (six kills) and Mikala Alsberry (four kills, two total blocks) provided support, and junior Hannah Keene (three kills, one solo block) also chipped in well.
Even with all their balance, the Rams had to be resilient to hold off Clarke County.
The teams traded points to begin the second set before the Rams went on a 6-0 run to gain control. Orndorff served bookend aces during the spurt, Bromley and Keene each had a kill, and McKenzie Stickley and Bromley shared a block to push Strasburg ahead 14-8.
Orndorff and Bromley (combined nine kills) each continued to pick up kills in the second set to keep the momentum on the side of the Rams, and another kill by Bromley had the lead at 22-16.
After Bromley missed on her next attack, the Eagles closed the gap. Freshman Javonna Lansdown got hot from the service line and she hit on three straight aces to cut Strasburg’s lead to 22-20. Lansdown was long with her next serve, and Bromley again had a clutch kill — redirecting a set from Rachel Funkhouser to an open spot for the kill.
Two straight errors by the Rams again made it a two-point margin, but Bromley had the closing touch, picking up her sixth kill of the second set by sending an attack off three defenders to clinch set-point.
In the third set, the Eagles were down four before going on an 8-3 run to gain a lead deep in a set for the first time in the match.
Juniors Jaime Hoggatt and Kaitlyn Turner each had an ace during the run and Lansdown, along with sophomores Hannah Ravenscroft and Allegra Eyles, had kills. An attack error by the Rams allowed the Eagles to cap the spurt and move ahead 18-17.
With improved passing, Sowers felt her team gave itself a chance to work a more consistent attack and give the Rams fits at times.
“We had better passing, better movement on coverage, and definitely getting up on the blocks,” Sowers said. “The last time we played Strasburg we really struggled with getting our blocks together. I thought we improved quite a bit on that tonight.”
The Eagles received another super effort from the youngest player on their roster (Lansdown finished with 11 kills and a match-best four aces).
The Eagles also got three kills and a team-high 11 assists from senior setter Stephanie Nelson and three aces and a solo block from Turner.