Thomas Dale Sweeps Matoaca on the Road
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Oct 5, 2012, 16:44
Thomas Dale juniors Andrew Ray (21) and William Ragland (20) sky to defend a kill attempt from Matoaca’s Rick Spiers (6) on Thursday in Chesterfield. The visiting Knights won the Central District match in straight sets (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
CHESTERFIELD — The Thomas Dale boys volleyball team cleared a major hurdle in its quest for a Central District regular-season title on Thursday by completing a season sweep of intra-county rival Matoaca.
Boasting a fine-tuned offense, the visiting Knights were firing on all cylinders as they cruised to a straight-set win (25-17, 25-18, 25-23) in Chesterfield.
The match was the eighth in a two-week span and the fourth in as many days for Thomas Dale, which won a critical district outing against Colonial Heights on Tuesday but fell to two-time reigning state champion James River on Wednesday.
“We were a little worried coming into tonight about whether we’d have enough energy left,” said Thomas Dale coach Mike Walker Jr. “I think for the first two games we played pretty well.”
If the Knights were feeling fatigued against the Warriors, they disguised it well. Paced by a solid serving stint from junior William Ragland, Thomas Dale laid claim to what had been a back-and-forth opening set.
The two teams were deadlocked at 14-14, but the Knights closed with an 11-3 run to take a 1-0 lead. The spurt was spurred in part by a series of timely double teams that thwarted the Warriors at the net.
“They cover the floor phenomenally,” said Matoaca coach Adam Griffin.
The start of the second game was not quite as riddled with parity. The Knights led by as many as 11 and kept the Warriors guessing on defense with an offensive formation that boasts a trio of hitters.
“If you can get all three hitters involved, then the defense is at your mercy because they don’t know where the ball is going,” Walker said of the aggressive style.
Of course, the success of the formation hinges on consistent play from every attacker. Fortunately for Walker, the Knights’ roster is filled to the brim with capable ball strikers.
“That’s one of the things I like about this team,” Walker said. “We have a quality mix of hitters all the way through.”
That versatility proved to be too much for Matoaca in Game 2 as senior R.D. Nixon cemented a 2-0 Thomas Dale lead with a cross-court kill that made the score 25-18.
The Warriors found themselves on the wrong end of another lopsided scoreline early in the third set — this time a 9-3 deficit — but showed their mettle with a rally down the stretch.
Outside hitters Aaron Green and Chris Spencer led the charge as Matoaca managed to reduce the gap to 20-19. But Thomas Dale staved off the comeback bid and senior Britton Spriggs provided the final point with a timely block.
“It was important to end the two weeks with a win,” Walker said. “In district play, we’ve seen everybody and this is the second time we’ve seen [Matoaca]. Now we just have to take care of business when we play Colonial Heights next Thursday.”
Ragland registered a match-high 10 kills and six blocks for the Knights while Nixon chipped in with seven kills and five blocks. Neil Schindel played the role of provider, tallying 17 assists in the winning effort.
For Matoaca, Green notched nine kills and two blocks and Brandon Harper finished with two kills and 14 assists. The loss drops the Warriors to 5-7 on the season, 3-3 in district play.
With the win, the Knights improved to 10-2 overall (7-0 district). The only two blemishes on Thomas Dale’s record came this week in outings against Dominion District powerhouses James River and Cosby, two teams the Knights are likely to meet again during the Central Region tournament next month.
For that reason, Walker said the losses were constructive. Moreover, the veteran coach is hopeful that his team will be able to reverse the results in the event of a postseason rematch.
“We’re getting better,” Walker said. “We talked to the kids a little bit about how we could still go up. We haven’t peaked yet.”
Before Walker and his team consider the region scenarios, they must first tend to district business. After dispatching Matoaca, the Knights shifted their focus to a looming road match against second-place Colonial Heights next week.