Warriors Oust Wildcats

Warriors Oust Wildcats

ABOVE, RC junior outside hitter Jaydyn Clem-mer collects one of her 26 digs while teammates (from left) Graceon Armstrong (13), McKenzie Hines and Emma Lawson (8) watch. AT LEFT, Wildcat head coach Amanda McCoy instructs RC freshman defensive specialist McKenzie Hines. BELOW LEFT, RC sophomore setter Krissy Whitesell gets under the ball for a dig while Hines watches. BELOW, Wildcat senior hitter Graceon Armstrong leaps to spike the ball. Armstrong led the Wildcats with 22 kills and eight blocks, and she added 16 digs and three aces. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photos)

Warriors Oust Wildcats
Warriors Oust Wildcats
RC Netters Blocked From Regional Three-peat

The Rockbridge County High School volleyball team’s postseason run concluded with a 3-2 loss to Western Albemarle in the Region 3C quarterfinals on Tuesday of last week in Lexington.

The third-seeded Wildcats (24-5), coming off winning their third consecutive Valley District championship two weeks ago, won the first two sets, but the sixth-seeded Warriors made a dramatic comeback to earn a 12-25, 13-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-11 win.

A key ingredient to WA’s comeback was strong blocking, with tall and athletic middle blocker Caitlyn Driver leading the way with five blocks and adding 11 kills. Playing in front of a huge crowd of fans, the Wildcats never stopped battling, but they struggled with errors and missed serves in the later sets.

The loss ended another strong season for the Wildcats, who won the last two Region 3C championships before falling to Hidden Valley in the state quarterfinals both years.

“It’s tough. I mean, at any point from the region and on, there can always be a swing, and it’s very familiar to other matches that we’ve had where we’ve kind of lost momentum and we kind of couldn’t get it back,” said fourth-year RC head coach Amanda McCoy. “Some of our passing went away, and some of our really good defensive play where we hit the ball to targets. It made it a little bit harder to run all three hitters at all times. We were kind of a little bit more predictable. I think it was a little bit easier for their middles, especially, to know where to place themselves early.”

“It wasn’t like we just let them run the show at that point, but we had serve errors,” McCoy continued. “We had a few miscommunications. We weren’t firing necessarily on all cylinders, and that kind of hurts you at this level. … You play better teams. Western Albemarle played very well.”

Senior hitter and co-captain Graceon Armstrong led the Wildcats with 22 kills and eight blocks, and added 16 digs and three aces. Junior outside hitter and co-captain Jaydyn Clemmer, the Valley District player of the year, led RC with six aces and added 16 kills and 26 digs. Also stepping up for RC were senior libero Emma Lawson with 29 digs and sophomore setter and co-captain Krissy Whitesell with 40 assists and 10 digs.

In addition to Driver, the Warriors’ leaders were Katie Carter with 19 kills, Annabella Pandelli with 38 assists, Amber Parker with 32 digs, Sarah Rhea with 13 digs, Brooke Chavez with 12 kills.

Reviewing how her team earned the win, WA head coach Julie Radlinski said, “We wanted to key in on blocking. Obviously, they have a great offense, some stellar hitters, so our blocking came alive, and I think we tried some different things offensively, and it clicked, and we found a rhythm. I would have to say our blocking made a big difference.”

“Obviously, we knew they were defending champions,” Radlinski added. “We hadn’t seen them at all this year, so we didn’t know quite what to expect, other than we knew they had a couple of great players on their side of the net. So, we really focused on what we can do well, and that was blocking and defense, and it worked for us tonight.”

“It was such a battle, fantastic volleyball on both sides of the net,” Radlinski concluded.

The Warriors, who had made it to the finals of the Jefferson District tournament before falling to Albemarle, went on to lose a competitive three-set match at Rustburg in the regional semifinals on Thursday, falling just short of advancing to the Class 3 state tournament. WA finished the season with a record of 18-12.

The Wildcats will graduate Armstrong, Lawson and Meredith Lawhorn, an outside hitter and defensive specialist.

Proud of the Wildcats for going 10-0 in the district and three-peating as district champions, McCoy reflected on the season. “It’s nothing to hang your head about.”

McCoy said the Wildcats have a bright future, and they’ll have the leadership of Clemmer next year. Last month, Clemmer committed to playing Division I volleyball at Virginia Tech.

The Wildcats had a young team this year, with two juniors, seven sophomores and three freshmen.

“Although the outcome wasn’t what we wanted we are very proud of our ‘Cats and what they’ve accomplished this season,” said McCoy.

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