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In a reversal of fortunes, Staunton River topped defending Seminole champion Jefferson Forest, three games to two, in early-season volleyball action.
“I think this year we move better,” assessed Eagle Head Coach Rich Northrup. “Still, we have spurts where we lose concentration and confidence. “We also have spurts with strong concentration and confidence.”
The scores validate the coach’s view of his team. The match went the full five games, with the teams swapping wins throughout: 25-15, 16-25, 25-20, 15-25, 15-11, in front of an appreciated crowd at the Eagles’ Nest.
For the finale, the Eagles chose the side from which they’d won their two games (and from where JF won its pair of games).
That strategy paid off when River broke open a 4-all tie. The Eagles built up an 11-6 lead on the strength of a pair of Lauren Mitchell service aces and a couple of Brianna Holdren kills.
Jeff Forest was able to close the gap, though. Allie Lovell and Ryan Martin each mauled a kill. Kayla Goumas added an ace to pull the Lady Cavs to within two pints.
But River’s Addie Tuck had a nifty shot that wasn’t returned, Mitchell added a kill and Tuck finished off the match with another kill.
“It’s fantastic,” said Abby Moran. “JF has always crushed us. This is huge.”
Moran’s 13 kills, three blocks and three aces were also huge for the Eagles.
Added the senior outside hitter, “I’m hoping this is a sign for our season.”
What could be a sign of things to come is the sound communication that was obvious among the Eagles. That is an area that has greatly improved over last season.
Additionally, the team seems to have many contributors, not being dominated by one or two players. “We try to make it about the team, not about one person,” noted Moran.
Still, there were some shining stars. Brianna Holdren had four kills and 12 digs. Jewell McRoy set 20 assists, showing versatility in bopping four aces.
Lauren Mitchell nailed four kills, drove three aces and scooped 15 digs.
Jefferson Forest, meanwhile, showed its youthfulness. Having graduated all but one player from last year’s state-tournament entrant, Head Coach Steve Mills has a lot of green on his roster. There’s also a lot of potential.
Against River, Jasmine Callahan had 24 assists and 4 aces. Ryan Martin, Taylor Tibbs and Amber Evans combined for 25 kills, with Evans adding four blocks.
Kasey Clark hunted down 18 digs for the Lady Cavs.
“It’s part of the growing process,” said Mills of the defeat. “I think in a month we could be OK, though I’m not sure what ‘OK’ means since we don’t know the rest of the district yet.”
Mills made it clear what he is looking for from his team. “We want players who want the ball and are confident,” he said. “They can be the go-to players for us.”
Thursday night excitement
This Thursday, Staunton River will face another county rival in the form of Liberty. The Eagles will visit the Minettes for a 7 p.m. tilt.
Jefferson Forest, meanwhile, will visit Franklin County that evening.
Seminole District action heats up Sept. 6, when Liberty hosts Heritage. The Lady Cavs enter the Seminole fray on Sept. 8, heading to Brookville.
River opens up Blue Ridge play Sept. 27 (at Northside).