SILVER SPRING – Sherwood High School volleyball Head Coach Sydney West knew that the away match against Montgomery Blair High School on Oct. 7 would be a turning point for her team.
After all, both squads entered the contest with identical 7-1 records. The Warriors earned a tournament victory in a competitive bout against Blair in September, but with a tough upcoming schedule against high schools like Damascus, Northwest and Magruder, Sherwood needed the extra boost to fuel the rest of its season.
Before the game against the Blazers, West instructed her players to play with a lot of energy, to treat each other like family and to encourage each other during huddles and on the court.
West’s words led to a cohesive Warriors team, which registered a resounding 3-0 win in straight sets (25-13, 25-16, 25-12) against the Blazers.
“We were definitely ready. We’ve been preparing a lot,” said West. “We were working on bringing energy from the start, and we did that tonight. It felt good to have a strong start and to stick with it.”
Sherwood senior captain Annabelle Kahn provided the encouragement and energy that West had been looking for. Kahn directed and instructed her teammates both on the court and from the bench, and provided a save from the ground that denied the Blazers a point.
“I like to call out the hitters and everything,” said Kahn. “I think it just helps out our defense and our players the whole time, and it really just brings up the energy and the momentum in our team.”
Blair kept the match close to start in all three sets, but Sherwood started to pull away each time as mistakes began to pile up. The Warriors outscored the Blazers 11-2 during a stretch in the first set; Sherwood also won most of the long volleys between the two teams.
Warriors outside hitter Anna Roberts hovered by the net, ready to tip in an easy kill. Blair senior Olivia Freer kicked off a 5-0 scoring run in the second set when she spiked the ball for a close shot right over the edge of the net.
The Blazers drew within five points of the Warriors in the second set before Sherwood started to pull away again. A Blair error finished off the second set in Sherwood’s favor.
“The girls just weren’t playing at their top level today. I think that going from a weekend straight into a game is always tough because the girls haven’t had a chance to catch up on what’s needed,” said Blair Head Coach Chris Liang. “It’s not really something that should affect them, but it’s always good to get touches before a game, especially before a high-level game like this.”
The Blazers started the third set with renewed energy and even pulled ahead on a Sherwood service error. Later, Blair junior Lucinda Zhou delivered a kill that kept the Blazers within one point of the Warriors.
However, Kahn still shouted instructions from the bench, and Sherwood’s celebrations began to get more animated as the final set drew to a close. The Warriors outscored Blair 12-3, including a 4-0 unanswered run, to win the third set and the game.
“I told them last week that this week was our turning point, and that we were either going to amp it up and we’re going to make some big moves in our big games, or we’re going to keep playing the same way we’ve been playing,” said West. “I feel like after this game that we’re really stepping it up, and we’re ready to take the momentum moving forward and put in the work.”
Liang said that his team’s second loss of the year will provide the motivation the Blazers need to keep moving forward for the rest of the season.
“I think this will give them more fuel; we lost to a very tough team,” said Liang. “We want to work even harder, because we know they’re a very good team and we want to strive to be better than them.”