Monroe girls explode early, beat Orange

Junior Sam Brunelle picked up largely where she left off last year for William Monroe Tuesday night in the Dragons’ season opener. But Monroe also got some strong performances from an almost entirely new supporting cast in a 69-32 win over Orange County.


“We had two scrimmages before this and our confidence level was pretty low but every week it progressively goes up and this game looked terrific and we can only go higher,” Brunelle said.


Brunelle, a 2017 All-State Group 3A first teamer, stuffed the stat sheet with 36 points, 14 rebounds, six steals, six blocks and four assists, outscoring the Hornets on her own with a typically diverse performance that included three 3-pointers and an array of drives and putbacks. Monroe jumped out to a 27-5 lead in the first quarter as they hit the gas early.


“In the first quarter, we were shellshocked, it was a great environment for basketball and we didn’t respond to it, we were kind of overwhelmed,” said Orange coach Dave Rabe. “William Monroe took advantage of that.”


Brunelle got a lot of help in building that early lead from freshmen Hailey Morris and Iyanna Carey too, with Morris scoring 11 points knocking down three 3-pointers while finishing with three steals and three assists.


“It’s very exciting to have a girl who is a true point guard,” Brunelle said. “She plays on the AAU circuit regularly so she’s used to the high competition and to see her come out here with a lot confidence is really good.”


Carey had nine points and snagged eight rebounds while dishing out two assists, showing solid poise in key situations and hustling hard in the paint.


“She’s the x-factor, she has this athleticism that is untapped right now but as soon as she completely realizes her potential she’s going to be very dangerous,” Stafford said.


With the graduation of Dajour Strother and five other seniors, the Dragons are working in a ton of new faces. That became even more of an early season theme with Emma Pickett and Lacey Beale temporarily on the shelf with injuries, pressing the team’s inexperienced members into even larger roles. Players like Morris, Carey and Jenna Velasquez, who had six first quarter points, met that challenge head one.


“We’ve got some injuries so you’re basically look at a team where everybody was on JV last year and Samantha,” said Monroe coach Jess Stafford. “A lot of teams look at being young as a disadvantage, we’re actually looking at it as an advantage.”


Orange, meanwhile, bounced back from that rough first quarter and actually outscored the Dragons in the second quarter, but that early hole was too deep to climb out of as Monroe kept answering most of the Hornets’ runs. Erin Ryder led Orange with 11 points while Lindsey Slaughter had nine points.


“We did some really good things with making some adjustments and learning but at the end of the day they battled and they gave it everything they had,” Rabe said. “They didn’t quit and that’s a beautiful thing.”


The Hornets will look to bounce back against Madison who beat Luray in their opener Saturday while Monroe hosts Fluvanna as part of a varsity doubleheader Friday.