MIDLOTHIAN – There were smiles aplenty from Powhatan Volleyball's players on Tuesday night. They laughed. They stayed upbeat. And in between sets and after the match, they were dancing to the music that filled Manchester High School’s gymnasium.
But when the whistle blew for every point that began, those players meant business, firing on all cylinders across all facets of the game and battling past a defensively sound Lancers unit in straight sets (25-17, 25-11, 25-15) to earn their third straight win ahead of Powhatan's regular season finale against Region 4B opponent Patrick Henry.
“It was a fun match to watch,” Powhatan head volleyball coach Cindy Bryant said of Tuesday’s game. “They were having fun as they played, too, which was nice, because…especially on a rainy day, you wonder who’s going to show up and…I’m proud: they brought good energy, exceptional energy for a rainy day…they were laughing and enjoying it.”
Manchester also had strong moments in the match, cutting into Powhatan’s lead in the first set before the Indians pulled away, and then leading the third set early at 8-5 before the attack power from senior DePaul commit Sierra Ellison, a one-handed setter dump for a point from sophomore Bryson Amorese and errors by the home team helped Powhatan power on past.
Manchester did also keep the Indians on their toes with a resilient receiving game across the rotation. But Coach Bryant was glad her Powhatan players came out strong – and they did so with consistency, which was one of their goals for Tuesday’s match. They wanted to keep from having multiple errors in a row – respond to an error by making the right plays on the next point – and Coach Bryant felt they did that very well against Manchester.
Senior Sierra Ellison has been on fire since her full return against James River. She made seven digs, sparked excitement among her teammates on her three blocks and led the way on 13 kills – some booming and others lighter, including a well-timed third-set dink that saw her race to the ball from the left edge towards the middle, jump up for the shot and tap it not in the direction she was heading towards her right, but in the opposite shallow space away from her to the left for an insurance point at 12-10.
“Sierra’s shot-making really has taught her teammates a lot about shot-making,” Coach Bryant said. “You see the middles’ shot-making now, some right sides’ shot-making with some strategic tips and dinks and it’s just fun to see how they’ve learned from each other and make each other better, and that’s what a team does.”
Senior Star Bryant also varied the power of her attacks, but she didn’t lose any of the fire in her lasering spikes that helped her attain nine kills on the evening. She added to the team’s strong play at the net with two blocks, and she also contributed four digs and one assist.
Versatile junior Natalie Mueller delivered nine digs on defense, fired over five kills on offense and ended a spectacular rally kept afloat by both teams' strong receiving games when she jumped up and knocked down the ball on a timely block for a point in the second set.
Powhatan’s talented sophomores also shimmered. Setter Bryson Amorese remained consistent with 23 assists. Kendal McMullin had one ace, two digs and one assist and kept up her strong play on defense. Libero Allie Dulio ensured the match point as she served to a Manchester opponent who erred in the receive. Middle Faith Henderson made three kills, two blocks and one dig, and she also got to serve in Tuesday’s game.
“She’s got a pretty aggressive serve,” Coach Bryant said of Henderson, adding that, as they look towards upcoming games, they’re trying to think about where they can beef anything up. “One thing we tried tonight was her service, and she was very consistent overall with that…that was fun to see, and of course a sophomore doing that job for us, we’re really proud of that.”
The Indians (15-2) are working hard to win everything they can, knowing that they’re vying for that top seed in Region 4B. Their three consecutive wins against Class 6 opponent James River and Class 5 teams Clover Hill and Manchester are steps towards that goal.
They have eight days to get ready for their final regular-season match at Patrick Henry on Wednesday, Oct. 30. Coach Bryant said they plan on utilizing some of that time to watch video and try to do some strategy sessions that way. Start time will follow 20 minutes after the end of JV's match, which is currently slated to begin at 6 p.m.