Colonels hold off feisty Warriors in sweep
Posted: October 13, 2012
WINCHESTER — After needing to battle through a gutsy five-set thriller against Handley Tuesday night, James Wood wrapped up its rivalry week with a second straight road match at Sherando.
The Colonels swept the defending Northwestern District champion Warriors 3-0 back on Sept. 25, but the rematch proved to be a little closer this time around — even though the final score remained the same with James Wood blanking the Warriors in three-sets (25-21, 25-19, 25-20) district victory.
James Wood sophomore Katie Houser led the Colonels with a match-high 24 kills and senior Tarah Wampler added 11 kills to help the Colonels (13-2, 5-0) remain unbeaten in the district.
“I told the girls after Tuesday that now the target is on our back and just wear it proud,” James Wood coach Jill Couturiaux said. “We’ve always seemed to come across as the underdog but we want people to respect our game.”
The Warriors (8-7, 2-3) definitely gave the Colonels their best shot in the third set, taking an early lead and then pushing it out to an eight-point advantage.
Cassie Slater’s ace put Sherando ahead 11-5, forcing a James Wood time out. After Couturiaux huddled with her team, Sherando committed a hitting error, but the Colonels followed that miscue with two of their own (on a service error followed by a hitting error) to give the Warriors their largest lead at 14-6.
From there James Wood began to chip away. Senior Emilee Payne’s ace cut the deficit to five, and Houser followed with a kill to cut Sherando’s lead to 16-12.
After trading points on errors, Houser scored three straight points with a kill followed by a pair of aces to cut the Warriors’ lead to 17-16.
Slater’s kill put Sherando back up by two, but James Wood’s front-line players capped a 15-5 Colonel run with clutch points at the net.
Abigayle Sytsma blocked an attack and Ashley Hillyard and Erica Hepner followed with kills to tie it at 19. Houser and Wampler added two more kills to put James Wood ahead 21-19.
After Sherando senior Ryan Magalis cut the deficit back to one with a nicely placed push that found an open spot on the court, the Warriors gave the point back on a net violation.
With a 22-20 lead, Houser closed out the match with three of her seven kills in the set to end it.
Staring at the eight-point deficit, the Colonels kept their poise and answered the Warriors’ challenge in the third set.
“We weren’t going to let [that third set] go,” Wampler said. “We knew what we wanted to accomplish and we were just going to fight for three games.
“When we set our minds to something our team is pretty good at accomplishing a goal. [In the third set] I think we did that as a team.”
Sherando definitely made the Colonels work for it in the third set, and kept all three sets close. The Warriors erased an early-five point deficit in the first set, and trimmed a six-point deficit down to three (at 20-17) in the third.
“We had chances in all three games,” Sherando coach Chuck Ashby said. “They’re a good serving team and that helps. That keeps them close.
“We usually have three sophomores in our back row and I just keep telling them these are the games that make you stronger as a junior. We were much improved. James Wood is a good team, but I felt like we were there and we contained Houser a little bit. She’s going to get her kills so no one is going to stop her completely.”
After 29 kills against Handley, Houser added 24 kills and three aces against the Warriors. Payne set up most of Houser’s kills, leading the Colonels with 36 assists.
Several of the Colonels use an aggressive, top-spin jump serve that’s tough to handle but it’s also sometimes tough to control. James Wood committed 16 service errors. The Colonels overcame seven service errors to take the opening set 25-21.
“We missed a lot of serves but we got a lot of aces too so I think it kind of made up for it,” said Hillyard, who had a team-high four blocks. “We have some good float-serves and top spins. We were a little tired, but overall, I think we were pumped for this game.”
Even though the Colonels’ play (and serving) was erratic at times , Couturiaux said the team’s defense, led by senior libero Kelby Jackson, was solid.
“I thought Kelby played tremendous defense,” Couturiaux said. “She’s so good. I think the other girls feed off her defensively. It’s hard to get a kill when Kelby’s back there. She made some pretty amazing plays. Overall, I thought we played some scrappy defense tonight.”
The Warriors lost their fourth straight match, but Ashby likes the progress his team has made since its first match against the Colonels, particularly with younger players like sophomores Michelle Baker, defensive specialist Clare Milburn and libero Erica Scully playing prominent roles.
“We pulled up Michelle Baker to help block after that [first James Wood] game because we realized we were struggling with just all-around blocking,” Ashby said. “I think it’s made a big difference. Tonight we saw some consistency. I feel confident when we get to the district tournament, we’re close. We’ve played Handley close, and we’ve played James Wood close twice.”
Slater led the Warriors with four aces and three kills, and Alaina Combs and Baker added two kills apiece.
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