Lions take wild quarterfinal game over Monroe

It was one emotional swing after another. When one team felt comfortable, the other stormed back. The points were long and drawn out and both benches celebrated and hung their heads at a frantic back and forth rate. In the end, William Monroe simply could not penetrate through the Louisa County block at the front of the net. And after watching a sizable lead in the fourth game slip through their hands, the Lions regrouped and got the job done in the fifth, beating the hosting Greene Dragons 3-2 in the Jefferson District quarterfinals, 19-25, 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 15-9.

“We can play so well together and we’re very united,” said Louisa senior hitter Emily Walton. “At the end (of the match) somehow we fall apart. Tonight, we didn’t. I think that was because yesterday in practice we were screaming and acting like we were in a game.”

Things didn’t start Louisa’s way, in fact, all looked well for Monroe to begin as they took an early five point lead in game one and seemed to have the Lions figured out. All of that changed in the second set though.

Facing a 1-game deficit, the Lions’ defense came up with play after play to keep Monroe’s offense from finding the ground, and behind Walton, Kerrie Chisholm, Kimberly Busch and Katie Giusto, Louisa began to pound away. The Lions took a five point lead midway through game two and held Monroe from launching any comeback to even up the game.

Louisa’s momentum carried over into game three, and as the Dragons’ offense struggled to get anything past Lions defense, frustration set in for Monroe and mental errors resulted. Just like the previous game, Louisa built up a five point wall and rode it out to go up 2-1.

Early in game,  miscues continued to plague Monroe, and the Lions consequently built up the largest lead for either squad early, going up 12-5 to start. But after a timeout the Dragons got back to basics and chiseled away at the deficit to the tune of a 13-6 run to tie the game at 18. With the momentum on her team’s side, Monroe’s Alex Cave took over and forced the pivotal fifth game.

“All we had to was keep passing,” said Dragons coach Dee Hoffman. “We just had to get the ball to our setter (Haley Dodd) and keep playing and we didn’t do that.”

Louisa came out in the fifth game with a clean state of mind. The Lions went back to Walton, Busch and Giusto, and the block upfront reasserted itself to keep Cave and fellow hitter Katelyn Roach from gathering steam.

“We’re the best blocking team,” said Busch. “The coaches think so, I think so and the whole team does — if I can speak on their part. Tonight we played our hearts out and it was a lot of fun.”

After taking a 2-point lead to start, Louisa traded points before widening the gap to five at 10-5 and closing the door shortly thereafter.

“We told them (before game five) that they just needed to get their serves in and keep the ball in play,” said Louisa assistant coach Sarah Altizer. “We knew if we did that we’d be able to keep the errors on (the Dragons’) side of the court.”

The Lions had a season high 47 combined kills and stuff blocks with Walton leading the way with 14.

For Monroe, Cave had 13 kills and a staggering 19 digs to go along with Katelyn Roach’s 12-kill and 6-dig evening. Dodd had 32 assists.

With the win the Lions advance to play top-seeded Western Albemarle on Tuesday at Charlottesville high at 6 p.m.

William Monroe ends its season graduates four seniors including Roach, Dodd, Samantha Taylor, and Page Breeden.

“My seniors played with a lot of heart,” Hoffman said. “They’re a great group and I love them to death. I’m going to miss them big time. They gave it everything they’ve got.”