Clarke volleyball falls in district final

Posted: November 5, 2012

MADISON — Clarke County senior middle Ammie Levi walked around in circles, trying her best to shake off the pain of a turned left ankle that had sent her crashing to the floor moments earlier.

Levi’s determination was evident to everyone in the Madison County High School gym in that moment, and she did wind up staying in with the score knotted at 19 in the fourth set.

The problem for Levi and the Eagles volleyball team was that the host Mountaineers spent the rest of the set showing the determination — and the timely execution — that they had displayed from the start.

After dropping the next point, No. 1 seed Madison County ran off the next five and held on to beat No. 2 Clarke County 3-1 (25-19, 25-23, 17-25, 25-23) Saturday in the Bull Run District tournament final for its second straight district tournament championship.

The Eagles will now host a Region B, Division 2 quarterfinal game against Dan River Tuesday at 7 p.m., while Madison County will host East Rockingham in the Region B, Division 2 quarters Tuesday.

“It was just team togetherness, and not letting each other give up,” said Madison County coach Lindsay Von Herbulis, the Bull Run District Coach of the Year. “We’ve been working on that, because we get really quiet in games.

“They just knew they wanted it, and they were going to work hard.”

Specifically, the Mountaineers (19-4) wanted to work hard at the outset.

Though Madison County had swept its two regular season games with the Eagles (16-8), the Mountaineers trailed 2-1 against the Eagles on Sept. 18 and 2-0 on Oct. 11.

Madison County also wanted to start strong because of the condensed tournament format. The Mountaineers got to sit back and rest for two and a half hours after dispatching No. 4 William Monroe (8-8) 3-0 (25-19, 25-6, 27-25), while Clarke County had just 40 minutes to get ready for the final after a hard-fought 3-1 (15-25, 25-16, 25-20, 26-24) semifinal win over No. 3 George Mason (13-5).

“We had to start strong,“ Von Herbulis said. “The first game we knew they were probably just shaking off some stuff, and getting back into the rhythm of playing.”

The Mountaineers scored eight of the first 11 points of the first set and never trailed in it, giving them a boost of confidence.

But ultimately, what separated the teams was Madison County’s performance late in the second and fourth sets. Clarke County let identical 18-15 leads slip away in both of them.

Facing that deficit in the fourth set, the Mountaineers scored two critical points over the remainder of the set on serves the Eagles couldn’t control on first contact.

For Clarke County coach Mary Brune, there were too many instances where she felt the Eagles’ execution on Madison County serves was lacking.

“We struggled with serve-receive all night,” said Brune, whose team also gave up two aces late in the second set. “We weren’t moving as well as we were capable of moving, so we didn’t set up our attacks. When we attack, we’re tough to beat. We just didn’t do it as well or as consistently as we needed to.”

Levi showed just how dangerous she could be on the attack. She had a game-high 21 kills against Madison County, and on the first point after her injury (she stepped on a Madison County player’s foot on a play in which Levi was called a for net violation), she scrambled and managed a rare left-handed spike that dropped for a kill and put the Eagles up 20-19 in the fourth set.

But a dink kill from Madison County sophomore middle blocker Sheridan Santinga (eight kills) tied it at 20, and the Mountaineers just continued to make plays. The Eagles couldn’t handle the ensuing serve, senior outside hitter Katy Sorrell flicked a two-handed shot to empty space down the left sideline, and an Eagle hitting error made it 24-20.

Clarke rallied for the next three points to get their fans roaring and pounding the bleachers. But junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Doran smashed a hard shot just inside the baseline on game point to give the equally vocal Mountaineer fans another reason to cheer.

The Mountaineers frequently placed balls in spots where the Eagles weren’t.

“We had good spot-serving, and we were pushing and tipping to places we knew they couldn’t get to,” said junior outside hitter and Bull Run District Player of the Year Chandler Gentry (nine kills).

Senior outside hitter Isabella Eyles (five digs, two kills) said the Eagles didn’t communicate as well as they needed to on not just defense but all phases, and Levi said fatigue might have played a role in how Clarke County played down the stretch.

“I think we started out pretty well, but it’s kind of obvious we got a little tired,” Levi said. “We got a little sloppy in the end, but [Madison County’s] a pretty good team.”

Against a team like Madison, being just a little bit off for even just a few points can make all the difference.

“I thought we served well, and I thought we had some timely blocks,” Brune said. “We took some of their hitters out of game by setting a good double block. We just didn’t contest as many points as we needed to, and they had several easy points. But I’m proud of them [for getting to the final].”

Also against Madison County, sophomore middle Sydney Chrane had 10 kills, senior setter Amelia Erickson had 14 assists, junior setter Stephanie Nelson had 12 assists, and senior outside hitter Olivia Hart had six digs.

Against George Mason, Levi - who Brune hopes will be available Tuesday because of what Brune called a sprained ankle - had 17 kills and six aces. Chrane had 12 kills, Erickson had 19 assists, Nelson had 15 assists, and Eyles had 10 digs.

Levi and Chrane were named to the All-Bull Run District first team and Eyles was named to the second team.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.com

Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1