Blue Devils, Growing Pains Subdue Royals
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Sep 7, 2012, 16:04
Prince George freshman Alexis Lyons (4) hits a cross-court attempt as Varina senior Crystal Thorton-Foreman (12) and a teammate defend on Thursday (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
PRINCE GEORGE – Having already bounced back from a one-game deficit, the Prince George High School girls volleyball team looked poised to duplicate that feat and force a fifth frame in a non-district match against visiting Varina on Thursday.
Then – without warning – the freshman-laden Royals were undone by a bout of growing pains.
Buoyed by the senior duo of Ieisha Monroe and Julie Wyand, Varina overturned a 17-11 deficit in the fourth game with a 14-3 run to claim a 3-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-12, 25-20) victory. The match-clinching stretch featured a spurt of 10 unanswered points.
“We had some dead moments at some critical times,” said Prince George coach Wanda Gilbert. “But we played well and we ran with them. I think it was a pretty even matchup.”
The match was one of conflicting ideologies. Boasting an abundance of height, Varina reigned supreme in the middle as Monroe and her cohorts dominated at the net. In contrast, the Prince George offense flowed through outside hitters Katie Garrett and Alexis Lyons, a freshman.
The result was a see-saw affair, but the Blue Devils were sharper in the early going.
Varina’s Ashley Logan gave her team a 13-9 lead in the opening game with an authoritative, cross-court kill, and the visitors never looked back. Monroe provided the finishing touch, powering an uncontested effort off a Prince George player to seal the 25-18 win.
But the Royals, whose starting lineup includes two freshmen, rallied in the second game. Lyons made the score 10-10 with a kill before Darcie Warren broke the deadlock with a timely ace.
Jasmine Jefferson followed suit with a block moments later and the Royals surged to a 25-20 win that tied the match at one game apiece.
That victory, which was punctuated by a pair of diving digs on the final point, seemed to swing the momentum in the Royals’ favor.
It didn’t last long.
Varina opened the third game with an 11-3 burst and never trailed en route to a 25-12 win. Monroe was once again the catalyst as she frustrated the Royals with a well-blended medley of powerful strikes and deft touches.
It took a more taxing effort to dispel Prince George in the final set. Spurred by back-to-back aces from Garrett and solid outside play from Lyons, the Royals broke to a 12-6 lead.
“They’re doing really well,” Gilbert said of the Garrett-Lyons tandem. “I wish we would [hit] down the line a little more, but once we get that down we’re going to be all right.”
Varina reciprocated thanks to a serving stint from Wyand that spanned nine points. When the outside hitter first toed the line, the Blue Devils trailed 17-12. By the time she was finished, they led 21-17.
“It’s all about who gets the run and when they get it,” Gilbert said.
Garrett registered four kills, six digs, an ace and a block while fellow senior Michaela Harrison posted 14 assists in the losing effort. Jefferson also chipped in with three kills, two assists and seven blocks.
For Varina, Monroe tallied six kills and junior libero Taylor Rengers finished with a game-high 22 digs.
The loss drops the Royals to 1-3 on the season, but Gilbert said she is pleased with the team’s progress. Despite fielding considerably less experience, the coach said she believes the Royals are well-positioned to improve on last year’s 4-8 record.
“We are capable of much more than that this year,” Gilbert said. “Just in the mental aspect of it, we’re way above where we were last year even though we lost eight seniors.”
Prince George will kick off its Central District campaign on Tuesday at Dinwiddie.