Colonials Score Comeback Win
By David Breidenbach, Correspondent
Oct 16, 2013, 08:05
David Breidenbach/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT
COLONIAL HEIGHTS—When the Colonials started the third set down two sets to none Tuesday night, no one but Coach Mark Lee thought his team stood a chance of coming away with a victory.
The win ties the Colonials and Warriors atop the former Central District, with the formidable Thomas Dale Knights in the rare and unusual position of being second in the rankings. The win lifts Colonial Heights to 11-7 and drops Matoaca to 7-7.
Lee knew his team just needed to settle down a bit, and made a couple key tweaks, moving Blake Cox from his Libero position to a field position and Max Haynie to Libero. He also adjusted by using Tyler Gingrich more. The changes, while seemingly small, gave the Colonials a team that was quicker in the back court, better at passing, and had enough confidence to win the final three sets for a 3-2 win: 19-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-20, and 15-11.
“I don’t think that (the changes) made a difference, but for some reason in their minds it did and all of a sudden they started hitting the ball,” Lee said. “I think Matoaca lost a little confidence for whatever reason. In the first two games they hit us and we did not hit back. Then we started hitting back point for point and it made a difference.”
The Colonials, who did not look sharp in the first two sets, put things together to win the third set, 25-22 with the Warriors nipping at their heels.
But in the final two sets, the Colonials showed the kind of skill and
determination that prompted them to a five-set win two weeks ago against perennial power Thomas Dale.
Early in the match, Lee said, sophomore Noah Murdock was trying to finesse the ball a bit too much, and in general the team wasn’t hitting. Lee said he heard one of his back court players telling Murdock to dink left and he knew that was not what he wanted out from his big man up front.
“He (Murdock) got going in the second game where he wanted to dink all the time, it came from another player telling him to dink. I said, ‘No you don’t dink; you’re the destroyer. Once you set that up, then you dink.’”
Coming into the final three sets, Murdock was on fire. He scored the winning point in the fourth set on a dink, 25-20, and dominated in the final set. In the early going, Murdock got a block and an ace to put the Colonials out front 4-2. They never trailed from that point. At 8-5, Matoaca Coach Adam Griffin called time out to try to rally his troops.
David Breidenbach/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT
But the Colonials were full of confidence by then. Murdock slammed a kill to make the score 12-8, and followed it with a fist pump that seemed to supercharge the rest of his team. On the ensuing play, Murdock got another chance for a kill, but Matoaca pushed the ball back to him and he nailed another dink shot for a 13-9 lead. Matoaca closed the gap to 13-11 before the Colonials earned a side out for 14-11. This time, Murdock served for the Colonials closing out the match 15-11.
“Layne (McNamara) was giving me perfect sets. After we lose a point I have to get crazy to try to get my team up. I know the point doesn’t end till the whistle blows, so I just keep my eye on the ball and wait for my chances,” Murdock said.
Blake Cox and his backcourt crew battled from the deep court, and McNamara was able to get sets for the Colonials’ killer front line. On this night, it wasn’t just Murdock (16 kills, 6 blocks) pummeling the court, but other big men in Frank Dinoia and Stuart Crinkley came through with big points at critical times to keep the Colonials out front. Kevin Napier added 8 kills and a pair of digs, while Cox chunked in 6 kills, 3 blocks, and two aces to lead the Colonials.
“We had worked on (the changes) in practice and in late sets when we had big leads. It worked out tonight. We knew we had what we needed to beat them. The tweaks coach made make him look like a genius,” Cox said.
The win puts the Colonials in a tie atop the erstwhile Central District. How all of that will play out with the Virginia High School League’s new Conferences is anyone best guess, but for now the Colonials are happy to be on top.
“I told them they had the skills to win the match, all they needed to do was to settle down and play their game,” Lee said behind a mile-wide grin.
In the past, the Colonials had come close to playing at the level they have been playing this season. But one thing and another seemed to stop them from earning a big win in the close matches. Fourteen years ago, they were within a game point of downing Thomas Dale but could not close the set and the Knights went on to win. Several times over the past years they have lost close battles with Matoaca. Beating both of them in the same season, nearly within a week of each other, is high cotton for the team.
And they are doing it with mostly a young and inexperienced team. Many of the players up front are inexperienced. Murdock, who tends to be the pulse of the team, is a sophomore who more people associate on the pitching mound than slamming kills. But at 6 foot 6 inches tall, he possesses the one thing a coach can’t teach, height.
For court awareness, Cox keeps his fellow back court players in check. He also has an outstanding back court hit that netted six timely kills against the Warriors. Napier, Dinoia, Haynie, Crinkley, Gingrich, and Ackerman all play well for the Colonials. Gingrich, Crinkley, Murdock, and Sears are all sophomores.
The girls match also went to five sets, with Matoaca coming out on to this time 3-2: 22-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-13, 15-13. Jaelyn Jackson led the way for the Warriors with 21 kills and 2 blocks; and Taylor Morris had 39 assists and 4 kills, Sarah Temple added 9 kills, 3 blocks, and 5 assists for the Warriors. Kayla Boyd had 26 kills, 8 digs, and 3 blocks for the Colonials, Mia Heydet added 9 kills and 9 digs, and Savannah Couch has 39 assists and 3 digs.
The win boosts Matoaca to 12-4, and drops the Colonials to 10-9.