Both Western Albemarle and Fluvanna County volleyball seemed to sense the stakes rising, with the potential to clinch a Region 3C playoff berth on the line for both squads.
Western Albemarle junior Sarah Rhea though seemed to sense it the most.
In game five with the match on the line, Rhea was calling for the set. Imploring her teammates to let her deliver in a 3-2 victory over the Flucos that avenged an earlier season loss to the Flucos.
“Sarah was calling for those sets, she wanted them and it was like Hammer Town, she was ready for them,” said Western coach Julie Radlinksi. “Crushing them down the line was exactly what we had been working on so I’m so proud of her.”
Rhea delivered over and over again, with 16 kills including one right down the line for Western’s 14th point in game five that came seconds after Fluvanna got another one of her attempts up. Rhea just kept plugging.
“Especially when games get close it’s really important for me to realize that I have to be a leader on the team,” Rhea said. “If I get the ball I need to trust in myself to get the ball down because I know the whole team is trusting me.”
The win clinched a Region 3C playoff berth for the Warriors, avoiding a three-way tie with Fluvanna and Monticello that the Flucos could’ve forced by virtue of both the Mustangs and Flucos beating Powhatan this week.
Instead, Fluvanna and Monticello will face a one-match playoff next week for another spot in the region playoffs.
Rhea’s work came late while Abby Johnson did a lot of heavy lifting early with 16 kills for the Warriors too. With Bella Plummer notching 11 kills and Caity Driver registering 10 kills, it was difficult for the Flucos to hone in and come up with big blocks at key times — there were just too many hitters putting in work for the Warriors.
“Western played really really well, they are gelling, their offense is working,” said Fluvanna coach Christi Harlowe-Garrett. “They had weapons coming from all the way across the front line, hats off to them they’ve done a fantastic job.”
Sierra McCance kept that offense humming along with 58 assists on the night while defender Amelia Nichols had 11 digs on the night. The Warriors took a little while to get going, falling 25-21 in game one as the Flucos carried over some momentum from the win over Powhatan earlier in the week. Christina Walker was particularly on point in the early going and finished with a team high 13 kills. Katie Morris finished eight kills and five aces for the Flucos.
But then Western and Johnson got going, and the Warriors won 25-12 and 25-18. Game four, Fluvanna got back in gear in a see-saw battle to force game five.
“The spirit of this team is intense, they battle, they stay together and they keep fighting,” Harlowe-Garrett said. “That’s the story of this team all year.”
Much like they did against Monticello earlier in the week, the Warriors pounced in game five, jumping out to an insurmountable 9-2 lead to take control.
“We knew this was going to be one of those matches where we would just have to grind it out against a very strong, very well-coached Fluvanna team,” Radlinksi said.
Western will face Albemarle Tuesday to wrap up the regular season while Fluvanna hosts Louisa the same night before the playoff match with Monticello Thursday.