Sticking to it: Western volleyball holds off late Monticello rallies for a 3-0 victory

Photo: Bart Isley

While most Jefferson District squads have faced each other at least once, Monticello and Western Albemarle haven’t done battle since last year. In 2017 the Mustangs picked up their first win over the Warriors since 2001, and just a few weeks later, its first ever regular season sweep. With the two playing twice in just seven days thanks to rescheduling from Hurricane Florence, the Warriors ended their two game slide with the Mustangs thanks to a 3-0 sweep that was not easy to come by, 25-17, 25-23, 25-20.


“I think this was turning the corner for us to be able to hold on to games and controlling the game, the tempo,” said Western coach Julie Radlinski. “If we control the energy, control the tempo we’re usually able to execute and that’s what the girls did tonight. I was really proud because the girls did exactly what we talked about.”


With a game in hand and up 24-18 in the second set, Western looked poised to roll into the third set quickly when Monticello’s Allie Cognata and Ellie Quick teamed up to lead the way to a 5-0 run and put the Mustangs within a point at 24-23. That forced a Western time out and coming out of that break, but the Warriors got that elusive final point to take a 2-0 lead with a 25-23 win on a Caitlyn Driver kill.


“We really had a positive attitude and knew that to win you can’t lighten up,” Driver said. “They had some quick outside hits so we had to move fast to close our block and we ran fast hits on our side too so it was pretty even. So basically you had to move quick to get through those outside blocks.”


With both teams’ front lines evenly balanced, it was a battle early in the third set with the score locked up at 3-3 and the Warriors leading at 12-11 before they took control with a 5-1 run led by Lilly Davis and Abby Johnson to go up 17-12. Quick and Cognata helped to close the gap at 18-17 but then the Warriors went on a 6-0 run with an ace from Sarah Rhea to make it 23-17. But just like in the second set, the Mustangs dug deep to get three of the next four to close it to 24-20. However, a defensive error from Monticello handed them the game and match at 25-20.


“We need to find those fighting mentalities we did tonight when we’re not down in a 24-20 scenario but it was still good to see,” said Monticello coach Meg Carpenter. “I think something our team is strong is that when it comes to the tight games they’re good at taking away the mental game and focusing the skill and strategy. When it’s a bigger gap you have room to think about the play. We want to be in that mindset of attacking the ball, getting that kill and not what if you hit it out.”


The first set was even early at 4-4 but a 10-3 rally put Western up 14-7. Monticello got to within 20-15 but the Warriors finished on a 5-2 run to take the 1-0 lead.


“This one was tough because we haven’t seen them and we’re going to see them again soon,” Radlinski said. “It was less about what would Monticello do to us and more about what do we want to do to them. We had stellar performances with great defense, we knew we wanted to block a certain way and we did and we just came out and executed.”


For Monticello, Jewel Pugh had 25 assists and five digs. Meghan Walin threw in seven kills, two blocks and five digs. Cognata finished with eight kills and eight digs. Quick had a team high nine kills and three blocks to go with six digs.


On the Western end, Rhea led the attack with 11 kills and also chipped in five digs. Abby Johnson had nine kills. Natalie Peck had five kills and eight digs. Amelia Nichols had 15 digs and four aces. Sierra McCance had 32 assists.


The Mustangs  head on the road to face Louisa County on Thursday. The Warriors will host Orange County on Thursday. Then Western and Monticello will play in Crozet on Monday.