GLEN ALLEN -- In a Monday match featuring major momentum swings, Goochland volleyball persevered, outlasting Deep Run in the tiebreaking set with a 6-1 run in the closing stretch to win 3-2 (25-20, 10-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-10).
“We’re proud of the girls for closing and staying focused for five sets,” said Goochland head coach Rachel Jacobsen, who added of Monday’s win: “This is a good momentum starter. This week we’re playing Western and Fluvanna – both of which we’ve taken and beaten outside of our district play – so it’s exciting to go into another district opportunity off of a win.”
Senior Libero Blair Bussells on the receive and sophomore setter Adele Wheatley provided a consistent 1-2 base for Goochland’s attackers to go for points not only from the outside – senior Nova Wonderling’s hammering arm turned many a ball into an unblockable rocket on Monday – but also up the middle, with Laura Lee Baldwin and Layla Ford able to attack for points off the opposing blocks, as well as spot-kill the ball in uncovered court.
“Adele was doing a really nice job of connecting with her middles today,” Jacobsen said. “Laura Lee and Layla definitely got a lot more kills tonight than normal just because they were connecting, and it makes a big difference. Middles get overlooked because…they get pushed as blockers…but when you’ve got a middle who’s running and hitting, you’re more likely to get some kills out of it, so it was exciting to see them connecting and utilizing that tonight.”
Bussells continued to make the unlikely saves whether it meant running down an airball near the wall or going into a full dive on the floor to keep the point alive. She racked up 20 digs.
Wheatley led the team with 23 assists, added 4 aces and served for eight straight points during a crucial 9-0 lead-taking run for Goochland in the first set.
Whenever Wonderling rose to the air to meet the ball, chances of the opponents making the return diminished greatly. The senior led the team with a whopping 18 kills and added 2 aces and five digs.
Senior Audrey Dolan mixed in her own diving efforts to keep points alive as she made 10 digs for Goochland and added 1 ace off of her consistently linear serve.
Versatile junior Nicole Brown mixed into the setting role with 15 assists, and she added five digs as she was able to make the reflexive one-handed saves on the opponents' quick attacks. Brown also had 4 kills and 1 ace and helped secure the final 2 points for Goochland in the fifth set.
Jacobsen praised junior Nina Smith for “blocking all over the place.”
“She’s just a wall up there,” Jacobsen said.
Goochland initially trailed Deep Run 18-12 in the first set, but the Wildcats hit the next point into the net, and from there, Wheatley and her Bulldogs caught fire. Nova mixed in two big attacks, Brown attacked for a point off the block and Wheatley’s serve skipped off of the middle receiver’s hands in the back row to tie the set at 18-all, and Deep Run landed another attack in the net to push Goochland ahead at 19-18. The run of points for Goochland was capped at 9-0 by Wonderling and Baldwin’s coverage at the net and Wheatley slamming another serve off of the receiver’s hands for an ace. The Bulldogs held the lead from there to secure the first set.
After the Wildcats dominated the second, Goochland held command in the third with a 19-13 lead. But Deep Run chipped its way back, eventually tying the match at 24-all and then pushing past the Bulldogs on the next two points.
Goochland faced a similar scenario in the fourth set when it jumped ahead 19-12, but Deep Run steadily whittled the Bulldogs’ advantage down to 22-20. But Deep Run’s next serve hit the net, and the Wildcats’ short return of Brown’s serve on the next point stretched Goochland’s lead to 24-20. Deep Run struck back with two more points, but hit another serve into the net to ensure the set win for the Bulldogs and force the tiebreaking fifth set.
Goochland rocketed out to a 9-3 advantage, but Deep Run rallied to tie the set on a 6-0 run.
But the Bulldogs took back control and never let it go for the rest of the set and the match. After Deep Run sent an attack wide of Goochland’s court to return the Bulldogs to the lead, Bussells served for a 3-0 burst. Deep Run picked up a point, but Brown responded with a strong outside attack that the Wildcats hit away, bringing up match point with Brown serving.
On the third touch following Brown’s serve, Deep Run sent the ball into the net, cinching the victory for Goochland.
The Bulldogs now have back-to-back wins after also defeating Orange County (25-15, 25-11, 25-11) the week prior. In last Tuesday’s win over Orange, Brown racked up 17 assists and added 2 aces and a kill. Ford and Smith each tallied up 9 kills and a block, and Ford served 3 aces. Bussells led the team defensively with 11 digs.