Wood beats Handley 3-1 for Northwestern District title and Region II berth
Posted: November 1, 2012
Special to The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — It was pretty evident from the start which team was going to bring the energy.
Forced into a one-match playoff for the Northwestern District regular season title and the top seed in this week’s district tournament after a four-set loss last Thursday to Handley, the James Wood volleyball team turned the tables on Wednesday night and achieved what it has been setting out to do since practice began in August.
The Colonels came out swinging to dominate the first two sets, then got back to a hitting frenzy in the fourth set after the Judges stayed alive with a win in the third set to come away with a 3-1 (25-9, 25-18, 21-25, 25-16) win at Maddex-Omps Gymnasium to lock down the regular season crown and the automatic berth for the Northwestern to the Region II playoffs, which begin next week.
“It was huge,” said James Wood senior outside Tarah Wampler, who had one of her best matches of the season with 17 kills in the win. “We came out strong, we knew what we needed to do, and we accomplished it.
“We’ve known since August what we’ve wanted to do, and I think it was awesome to be able to do it the way we did. We did it strong and all together.”
The Colonels (18-3 overall) got their usual dominant attack from sophomore Katie Houser (match-best 21 kills), but sophomore setter/opposite Ashley Hillyard’s play was crucial as she played the entire match without a break.
Setting the tone early with her precise setting, Hillyard, who posted a match-best 43 assists to go with three kills and three aces, was the equalizer in the third matchup of the season between the two rivals.
“We were really excited and really pumped for this [match],” Hillyard said. “We wanted to redeem ourselves a little bit.”
Handley (14-5) again played without three-time all-district outside Deirdre Carter, who rolled her left ankle a week ago, the day before the Judges beat James Wood to close the regular season.
Handley coach Lindsay Hazelette said Carter’s status is day-to-day and did not know if the senior would be available for tonight’s 7:15 district semifinal against Sherando (11-9).
James Wood will face Skyline (8-11), a 3-0 winner over Millbrook on Wednesday, in the opener tonight at 6 in the other semifinal.
After reversing last week’s week’s result, James Wood coach Jill Couturiaux could take a lot of positives out of Wednesday’s win.
“I was pleased as a whole with how the team played,” she said. “The passing was good and the offense did their job. We definitely keep our errors to a minimum. We had only 11 [attack] errors. I thought our outside played tremendously well and our middles — Abby Sytsma came in with six kills from the right side, and that’s the first time she’s played that position all year.
“These girls, we had to come and take our pride back. We played with heart. We never panicked, came in and watched film, and studied tendencies. We made the adjustments. ”
Without Carter to concern themselves with, the Colonels played loose and brought the attack and hustled on the defensive end to limit the Judges to a combined five kills in the first two sets.
A pair of kills by Houser opened the match to get James Wood on its way. The Judges hung around, trailing only 9-7 when Wampler dropped a kill to return sideout.
From there, senior libero Kelby Jackson went on a 10-0 run from the service line, with James Wood earning nine of the points during the streak.
Wampler and Houser each had six kills in the first set, and Wampler had four during the stretch of 11 straight points, including her kill through the block for a 20-7 lead.
Houser had two more kills late, and the Colonels closed out their lopsided win in the first set after an error by Handley.
After a split of the first six exchanges, James Wood scored five straight to take the lead for good in the second set. Hillyard had two aces, and her push to an open spot on the back row sent the lead to 8-3.
The lead got up to as much as nine for James Wood before Handley started to claw its way back. The Judges closed to three late in the set before James Wood scored the last four points to move ahead two sets in the match.
Handley’s Ana Ribeiro got a kill to bring Handley to within 21-18 and force Couturiaux to use a timeout.
On the next exchange, Wampler trimmed the net with her attack, and it dropped for a kill. After a Handley attack error, Houser had an ace off a drop, and Catherine Legge had a well-placed kill to the front for the 25th point.
Facing a sweep at home, Handley got it together well in the third set to extend the match.
Limited to one kill through two sets, junior opposite Liz Grove got into a groove and lowered six of her team-best 10 kills in the third set to rally the Judges.
Alex Barnett had three of her six kills and Handley never trailed to make the match a more competitive affair.
“They came out in the third strong, like they always do,” Wampler said. “We just had to fight back so we could get the win, like we knew we had to do.”
Handley got the first point of the fourth set off a Ribeiro (eight kills) attack, but a combined block by Houser and senior middle Erica Hepner (three kills, four total blocks, four aces) tied it.
Legge then kept a rally going and got the point with a fist-spike that dropped for a kill, Hillyard and Legge combined for a block, and an error by Handley sent the Colonels up 4-1.
To get momentum back, James Wood kept building on its lead. Wampler again had a good set, equaling the six kills she had in the first set, seemingly with every one coming at a crucial point.
An 8-1 run had the Colonels at match-point, with Wampler dropping three kills during the run.
Handley kept its hopes alive for a few rallies, scoring four straight, including a pair of aces from sophomore Alexis Zygmunt. But Zygmunt’s next serve went long and the Colonels could finally celebrate.
“We all had to step it up a bit to take Handley and it was a great win,” Wampler said. “It was a great team effort and Ashley [Hillyard] did a phenomenal job.
“They’re a great team and we really had to dig down deep to win.”
The Judges must bounce back quickly and win an elimination match tonight against the Warriors, a team they swept both times this season.
The Judges did what they could on defense (Ribeiro had 20 digs and senior Alison Snow had 12 digs to go with her 18 assists), but another slow start could give the Warriors hope for an upset.
“We came out a little flat and we were not as intense as we were [last] Thursday night,” Hazelette said. “Again, it’s like every outing, our team needs to refocus, regroup, and just play until we hear the whistle and play every point 150 percent.”