Monticello’s volleyball team was rallying, closing a five-point gap in game one with Western Albemarle down to 24-23.
Right about that time, Abby Johnson stepped up and blasted a kill down the middle to end the game and get Western back on track. All night, whenever sixth-seeded Monticello seemed to get on track, No. 3-seed Western didn’t panic and let the game slip away and the Warriors rolled 3-0 over the Mustangs in the Region 3C quarterfinals 25-23, 25-19 and 25-13.
“We like to get things done off of one swing rather than get in rallies and for us that’s about not letting them get that momentum and get on those big runs,” said Western’s Sarah Rhea.
The Warriors will face the Rustburg/Spotswood winner in the Region 3C semifinals Monday.
The Mustangs put the Warriors in a whole to start game three with Allie Cognata starting on the service line and putting Western into a quick hole. The Warriors again didn’t panic, getting back on track for the easy win to close out the match.
The Warriors’ performance was a big step forward for a team that has continually improved but recently went five games with the Mustangs, a scrappy group that refuses to go away.
“I think that was one thing we wanted to change after seeing Monticello and going five games with them, was to come out here and stay calm in those big point moments,” said Western coach Julie Radlinski. “We just needed to be able to focus in on that and Abby Johnson and Sarah Rhea had big kills in big moments for us tonight.”
Rhea’s 13 kills and another 10 from Johnson helped make sure the Mustangs couldn’t upend the Warriors.
“We had two great focused days of practice going into this so I could tell mentally they were there,” Radlinksi said. “Offense, defense and serving we executed our strategy so I couldn’t be happier.”
Amelia Nichols led the Western offense with 14 digs while Amber Parker had 10 digs. Sierra McCance notched 34 assists. Natalie Peck finished with four aces.
The Mustangs’ season ends with the loss, and it left coach Meg Carpenter emotional as the end of the road for a group of seniors that were just sophomores when she took the job in 2016. That group has helped Carpenter get the entire Mustangs’ program on track.
“It’s not just their physical ability to play, they’ve got great hearts,” Carpenter said. “You can’t see it in stats, you can’t see it in scores but the heart behind these athletes is really going to change this program and I’m very thankful for that. We’re losing seven dedicated girls who are going to leave a lasting impact.”
Among those seven seniors, Allie Cognata closed out a big-time career with the Mustangs, totaling seven kills and 10 digs while Meghan Walin had three aces, four blocks and two kills. Allison Davis chipped in seven bocks.
The Warriors will find out their opponent in the semifinals Thursday night and they’ll play for a state tournament berth next week.