With sole possession of first place on the line in the Bull Run District, Madison County had its chance. Taking a 2-1 lead the Mountaineers just needed one more set to knock off George Mason, the team responsible for their only BR loss coming in. But the Mustangs were at their best with their backs against the wall, playing defensively and forcing Madison into making mistakes to roll to the most convincing win of the night in the fourth set, and holding strong in the fifth to win 3-2, 25-23, 17-25, 26-24, 25-12, 15-11.
“Madison’s outside hitters are really great, they really are, so we had to try and adjust and get them out of system,” said Mustangs coach Erik Healey. “This is a tough place to play in. Their fans bring a lot of energy. It’s loud in here. It was incredibly important to come in here and get the win and keep our district championship hopes alive.”
Mason got out to a 1-0 lead by surviving a late Madison surge. The Mustangs led at 18-11 but the Mountaineers clawed back to get within a point at 23-22 before the visitors closed out the set.
Madison’s best showing of the night came in set two where it build up a 6-point lead at 18-12 to force a Mason timeout. The Mustangs closed the gap to three points after that with a 5-2 run, but the last five points went the home team’s way to even the match up at one.
The third set resembled the first with Mason taking a 12-7 lead but Madison winning six straight points to take the lead. It was neck-and-neck after that up until 24-24 where the Mountaineers found a way to finish the game and take a 2-1 lead.
The aggressors offensively all game, Madison struggled mightily in the fourth set between its defense, communication, serving and hitting. Mason led by as many as 11 at 20-9, and didn’t have to look back to force a fifth and final set.
“It’s hard playing a team like Mason were they sit back,” said Madison coach Lindsay Von Herbulis. “They didn’t have a lot of kills on us, they don’t have the same type of offense as we do and they tried to keep it in play as long as possible and that’s hard to play against.”
In the fifth, the Mustangs momentum carried over as they took off on a 5-1 start, again playing defense and trying to force the Mountaineers into mistakes. Madison won eight of the next 12 points though to tie the game at nine. However, Mason would not give in after that as they took six of the following eight points and clinched the match.
“This was a really tough loss for us,” Von Herbulis said. “I hope we aren’t thinking about this when we go to William Monroe on Thursday. That’s a rivalry game in a different gym and hopefully we’ll shake it off and just reset.”
For the Mustangs, Dana Sembera had 32 digs. Sally Karstens had a big night with 11 kills and nine blocks. Maddie Johnson finished with 20 assists and 14 digs.
Chandler Gentry led Madison with 13 kills, 30 digs and a trio of aces. Cassity Lay had nine kills. Jessica Schmitt put together 28 digs. Logan Coates and Bailey Colvin each had 18 assists.
Mason (13-5, 9-3) hosts Rappahannock on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Madison (13-4, 8-2) heads to Monroe on Thursday also 7:30 p.m.