PHS claims fourth win, third in a row
© Culpeper TimesWith four wins in seven matches, the Patriot varsity volleyball team also has as many wins this season as all of last season.
Three of those wins came at home in Nokesville over four days last week as the Pioneers topped Potomac twice and Brentsville District once.
Against the Tigers on August 30, Patriot (4-3 overall) won in a three-game sweep (25-18, 25-20, 25-17) that actually turned out to be much more challenging than the scores indicated.
Brentsville battled back from a 19-12 deficit in the second game with an 8-2 streak that closed the score at 21-20.
In the rubber game, the visiting Tigers jumped out to a 13-10 lead.
Patriot responded with 6-0 run of their own while sophomore Pegah Zarandi sent over a series of good serves, including a couple of aces.
Her classmate Alexa Gore closed the game out with an ace, a foul called on Brentsville and an unreturned serve that went out of bounds on the Tigers' third hit.
"I think we are so much better than last year," said Gore, so totaled 50 sets on the night, 17 of which resulted in kills.
The sophomore setter added that Patriot found a hole in the Brentsville defense when it came to covering the boundary lines.
Outside hitters Zarandi and Taylor Kirby each tallied six kills while freshman Ashleigh Meade, one of two ninth graders on the Patriot roster, added three.
Zarandi explained that her kills came as she looked for a "seam" from the blockers up front.
"I think by game three, we got a little tired but then we realized it was all on the line," she said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Patriot came from Brentsville's Courtney Thornburg.
The junior easily had the most velocity on her kill attempts compared to anyone else on the team and her serves would nose-dive rapidly on to the Pioneers' floor.
"She's a strong kid and she's a smart volleyball player," said Brentsvile head coach Amy Beard.
According to Beard, Thornburg strikes from the top of the ball, which gives her attacks "good downspin."
Sophomore libero Kalia Batistas took on the task of defending those would-be kills by racking up 18 digs on the night.
"We try to talk a lot back there," said Batistas about her team's defense along the back line.
Her defensive strategy comes down to watching her opponents' arm swings, and in Brentsville's case, she thought some of their hits were "predictable" while some others were not.
Lindsay Klein added another five digs for Patriot as the team's other sophomore libero.
Seven of the Pioneers' 11 players are tenth graders: Zarandi, Gore, Bartistas, Klein, middle hitters Julia Metaxa and Nicole Yelland and setter Briana Hoffmann.
Meade and outside hitter Darian Hileman are the two freshmen while outside hitters Kirby and Ashley Phillips are the two seniors.
"It's definitely hard because we don't have the age and experience but some of us have to step up," said Batistas.
Her team's head coach Christina Woolwine, now in her second second at the helm of the Pioneers, said that the "fundamental difference is we're a lot younger (but) they work a lot harder," this year.
There are no juniors on the Patriot team while Brentsville sports four of them, along with four seniors, two sophomores and two freshmen.
"They played really hard tonight and every match, at about the same point, we let Patriot get a run on us," said Beard about her own team.
She added, "We just got to stay focused for every single point."
Her counterpart from Patriot cited the Tigers' energy as what kept the game competitive.
"I think Brentsville has a tough serving team and they hustle a lot, a lot, a lot," said Woolwine. "That means no balls hit the floor."
Patriot varsity volleyball remaining 2012 regular season schedule
Sept. 10 - Away at Brentsville District
Sept. 24 - Away at Freedom (South Riding)
Sept. 27 - Home vs. Osbourn
Oct. 1 - Away at Stonewall Jackson
Oct. 4 - Home vs. Broad Run
Oct. 9 - Home vs. Freedom (South Riding)
Oct. 11 - Home vs. Battlefield
Oct. 16 - Away at Osbourn
Oct. 18 - Away at Broad Run
Oct. 22 - Away at Hylton
Oct. 23 - Home vs. Stonewall Jackson
Oct. 25 - Away at Battlefield