Hosting its annual Dig Pink night on Thursday with Monticello, the Patriots were able to lean on quality serves and strong hitting depth to remain unbeaten in the Jefferson District with a 3-0, 25-17, 25-17, 25-9 showing against the only JD team to swipe a set of them so far this year.
“Our service came up big tonight and I thought Chloe Whaley had an exceptional game there on the back line along with everyone else,” said Albemarle goach Mark Ragland. “I thought the mental toughness was there more consistent than it has been at times too. We were energized and you always have that when you’re playing a cross-town rival, but we never let anything bother us tonight. We just kept rolling mentally.”
Things were tight early on in the first set. With Albemarle up by two midway through, the Patriots got five straight service points from Bridget Pinnata to go up 16-9. Albemarle led by as much as 22-12 but Monticello was able to cut into the lead with five straight service points from Meghan Walin. With the game at 22-17, the Patriots closed out the set with three straight getting a pair of errors to wrap up a 25-17 victory.
“Our goal was to start out aggressive and stay that way regardless of what Albemarle showed us,” said Monticello coach Meg Carpenter. “We didn’t want to play safe. That meant finding that seam or hole and Albemarle doesn’t let you have a lot of those unfortunately.”
The second set was close at 5-4 but a 7-3 run led by Esther Amos and Maya Winterhoff forced a Monticello timeout with Albemarle leading 12-7. The Mustangs to within three at 13-10 but a 5-1 run with Minteroff and Adalee Lynch playing aggressive at the front of the net put the Patriots ahead 19-11. Monticello to to within 23-17, but a pair of errors once again handed Albemarle a 25-17 win to make it 2-0.
“Playing Albemarle will only make our defense better,” Carpenter said. “They’re really aggressive at the net whether its a tight ball or a sweeping one, and that makes our defense work to make those plays. In the post season when the teams get bigger and bigger we’re going to be thankful for our games with Albemarle. Now we just have to string the defense and offense together in those types of matchups.”
With things locked up at 3-3 in the third set, Albemarle unleashed a pair of runs the first of which they got with Kelsey Marks at the service line and making it 10-4. Then a 6-0 run with Winterhoff and Lynch pounding away made it 17-5. Monticello kept things fairly even from there and fought through some rigorous rallies but the damage had been done and Albemarle wrapped up the sweep with an ace from Keira Roach to end the third set at 25-9.
“After the second set we talked about this, we’ve had some problems putting teams away,” Ragland said. “After two sets we’ve been getting a little lackadaisical and so we wanted to come out and show that same fire and energy we had in the first two sets. We wanted to make life easy on ourselves and we definitely did.”
For Albemarle Winterhoff led the way with 10 kills. Amos had eight kills.Sheedy finished with six kills and 10 digs. Roach had 28 assists and four aces.
“It’s always fun playing in this offense because you know even when you’re not set there are a ton of options,” Winterhoff said. “We have so many different players that can put it down and that’s fun to be a part of.”
For Monticello, Cognata finished with nine kills and 10 digs. Ellie Quick had four kills, two blocks and four digs. Jewel Pugh had four aces.
Monticello falls to 9-8 (5-3) and faces Western Albemarle at home Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Albemarle improves to 15-6 (9-0) and has Orange County on the road Tuesday also at 6:30 p.m.