By Allen Kha / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Top-seeded Goochland ran through its season with a simple formula: play all-out defense and set up good attacks by minimizing transition mistakes.
In the Region B, Division 2 championship game, the Bulldogs’ formula was tested against a ferocious hitting team in No. 3-seeded Stuarts Draft. Goochland hadn’t faced a team loaded with hitters for the majority of its season, and it ultimately showed in the home team’s 3-1 loss (22-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-15) Saturday evening.
“We just hadn’t faced a team like that… we don’t face strong hitting teams like that in our district,” said Goochland coach Jennifer Erixon. “The girls played hard tonight and I appreciated all of the digs we made, but we failed to turn any points of momentum and positives into sustained runs.”
With both teams already locking up state tournament appearances with their respective Region B semifinal wins, both teams played with ease from the get-go. After trading the match’s first eight points, Stuarts Draft muscled its way on a 14-8 run to jump out to a 18-12 lead in the first game.
Goochland — using strong set play to set up outside hitter Lainey Kopcznski — battled back on its own 8-2 run to tie the first game at 20 a-piece. The Bulldogs capitalized on sloppy outside hitting the Cougars to extend its momentum and take the first game 25-22.
Stuarts Draft quickly settled, however, and showed its might in the ensuing three games. In all of three games, the Cougars — using strong hitting play from hitters Danielle Wilson, McKenna Carter, Chelsea Davignon, and Emmy Blacka — put Goochland on its heels, forcing the Bulldogs to scramble out of position to make digs.
The Cougars’ powerful play helped the visiting team jump out to 15-8 lead in the second and third games. Although Goochland attempted to come back in both of the middle stanzas, the home team often failed to capitalize on potential momentum swings with mistakes of its own.
In the final game, the overarching theme of the match was prominent — Stuarts Draft’s hitters were just too much for the Bulldogs. The Cougars’ final two points to secure the Region championship were hard spikes off of soft Goochland returns, and Stuarts Draft had four hitters finish the match with over ten kills.
With the win, the Cougars will host Northumberland on Tuesday. Goochland, meanwhile, will make the long trip to defending state runner-up Mathews for the state quarterfinal tilt.
Carter, one of Stuarts Draft’s stars on the evening, was excited about her team’s win.
“We just played a solid match, and we could feel the momentum. By playing our game, we were able to put them on the defensive and that allowed us to get in a groove,” Carter said.
Erixon, meanwhile, lamented the loss, but commended her team for their effort without standout Jordan Fleming, who was unavailable for the evening.
“We made mistakes at times where we could have turned things around, and that decided the match tonight. So now, we face a tough trip and match against [Mathews]. We’ll just get to practice and continue to improve.”