GOOCHLAND -- Everyone who stepped onto the court for Goochland volleyball in Thursday’s Senior Night home match had a hand in the team’s 3-1 victory (22-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-11) over Jefferson District opponent Monticello.
The game not only honored the contributions and efforts of Goochland volleyball seniors Nova Wonderling, Audrey Dolan, Blair Bussells, Marina Stratiou and Jasmine Price, but it also showcased their talents as all five seniors made a key impact in the win.
“It’s so special, especially for this group,” said Goochland head coach Rachel Jacobsen. “This is the first group that I’ve been here all four years with…I’m very excited for them.”
In the victory, Bussells at Libero continued to make the difficult diving saves look easy. She racked up 19 digs, served an ace and even mixed into the setting role on a few points. Wonderling at outside hitter consistently hammered the ball to dish out 14 kills, and she remained a force at both serving and receiving as she tallied up 8 aces and eight digs.
Price had a huge game as she not only made multiple tremendous saves and came away with two digs, but she also brought the power on the attack. Price was able to earn her 8 kills off the opponents’ blocks, on landing the ball both in the corner and inside the opposing court’s boundaries, and on the lighter dink attack.
“She was powering through that block multiple times tonight,” Jacobsen said of Price. “She had a lot of really good hits.”
Jacobsen added that Stratiou was really steady in Thursday’s match. The senior setter not only led the team with 27 assists, but she also mixed into the receiving role to finish the match with eight digs.
“She was consistent, she was really big on defense – that’s something she came out of nowhere this season; her defense is through the roof,” Jacobsen said of Stratiou. “She’s been doing really well with that.”
Dolan was steady on both the serving and receiving ends, and she finished the game with three digs and a kill.
Jacobsen said this group of seniors has brought a lot to the table.
“They’re powerhouses at the net, they’re all over the back row,” Jacobsen said. “Blair is our defense, Audrey is an incredible help back there as well. Nova kills almost every ball she touches. Then we’ve got Marina coming out of nowhere, setting the ball as well….and Jasmine with a great night tonight, and she’s such a great personality on the court, too. If she wasn’t even able to get on the court, I would take her anyways. Her attitude is a game changer. She’s an incredible force. We love having all of them – sad to see them go.”
Blocking was key to Goochland’s win over the Mustangs. Wonderling, Layla Ford, Nicole Brown, Laura Lee Baldwin and Nina Smith all mixed into coverage at the net, as well as into successful attacks up the middle.
“We’ve been working on blocking a lot,” Jacobsen said. “We’ve got the back-row defense down pat, so it’s just working on helping out in the front row as well, but the girls are doing a really good job of it and adjusting as needed, and we’re working on reading the hitter and preparing ourselves ahead of time.”
Brown finished the night with 6 kills, 3 aces, four digs and a block. Ford was all over the place on the block. She also excelled at attacking and kept the Mustangs off-balance with her serve. Ford was on coverage at the net for set point in the second stanza as Goochland tied the match 1-1, and she gave her team a 23-22 lead in the third set on a service ace. The Bulldogs put away the set from there.
Goochland started turning the corner in the first set, rallying out of a 20-13 hole to cut Monticello’s lead to 23-22. Lyndsey Stemland put away the set point for the Mustangs on a spike, but Goochland found a way over the next two sets to take a 2-1 lead.
The two teams tied up to 17-all in the second set, but Dolan’s receive of Monticello's attack turned into a set by Brown that Smith hammered over the net for a kill to send Goochland into the lead. Monticello trailed as close as 20-19, but the Bulldogs secured the stanza on a 5-0 stretch with Wonderling serving through the final four points. Ford had the kill off of Stratiou’s set and Bussells’ receive to set up Wonderling’s 4-0 serving stretch.
Monticello had seized a 22-19 lead in the third set, but Wonderling’s dink into the Mustangs’ open middle court sparked a huge momentum-clinching, set-clinching 6-0 run for Goochland. Wonderling tightened Monticello’s lead to 22-21 on a kill off of Stratiou’s set and Price’s receive, Brown tied the match with a kill off of Stratiou’s set and Ford’s receive, and Ford gave the Bulldogs the lead for good when Monticello bounced her serve around before hitting it away and towards the back wall. Price’s kill off of Stratiou’s serve and Ford’s receive set up set point, which Goochland put away with Baldwin and Brown on coverage at the net for the block.
The Bulldogs proceeded to dominate the fourth and final set to secure the match. A block with Baldwin and Smith on coverage at the net gave Goochland the decisive match point.
Thursday’s win marked a reversal from Goochland’s 3-1 setback at Monticello in September. The Bulldogs (10-9) have four matches left, including a road match at Albemarle on Oct. 19, back-to-back home matches versus Louisa and Orange counties on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21, respectively, and a regular-season finale at Louisa on Oct. 26.
After Goochland concludes the regular stretch in the tough Jefferson District, it will take on the Class 3, Region B tournament, in which it’s excelled over the past two years as the regional champion in 2019 and regional runner-up in the condensed season this spring.