By Jim Laise (Northern Virginia Daily)
FRONT ROYAL – Youth was served here Thursday night, and volleyed, aced and killed as visiting Manassas Park shut out Skyline High School's volleyball team 3-0 for the second time this season.
"Yes, we had some of our younger players step up tonight," said Manassas Park High coach Darlington.
So did Skyline. The problem – among several for the Hawks – was that Manassas Park's younger girls had more experience than those from Skyline.
The Hawks led early in each of the three games, but could not hold on as they dropped their fifth straight match to fall 1-6 overall.
This was a 3A East Conference 28 match. In that area the Cougars (3-4 overall) are 2-2, while the Hawks dropped to 0-5.
Games won and lost do not necessarily count toward the 3A East-28 conference standings. Instead, teams earn power points depending on they play, who they beat and who they lose to.
Even though Manassas Park shows an overall sub-.500 record, the Cougars have played and beaten 6A Stonewall of the Northern Virginia region. The Cougars stumped these Hawks 3-0 at their place on Aug. 24.
After a recent defeat, Hawks coach Erika Berry compared her team's opening matches as a kind of "roller coaster ride" for Skyline.
That continued before a good crowd at Andrew Keller Court.
The local girls led 8-4 in Game 1, 3-0 in Game 2 and 2-0 in Game 3 as they would watch those leads and others dwindle under the ferocious power of Manassas Park's net game.
Junior Brooke Dunn, perhaps the best player on the floor, collected 10 kills, one ace and one block, while teammate Yanira Lopez, a sophomore, collected 11 kills and two aces.
Both girls are varsity letter winners from a year before.
This is not particularly true for the Hawks. With senior middle hitter Nikea Whitmore (three kills) recovering from a back injury for the Hawks, sophomore outside hitter Shyla Schmitz, sophomore middle hitter Molly Meador and sophomore outside hitter Rileigh Hirsch tried to pick up the slack.
"They all played well – Shyla, Molly and Rileigh. Molly earned a starting spot in the lineup through practice this week and she showed what it meant to her. She was hustling," said Berry.
Schmitz, Meador and Hirsch are generally new to the Skyline lineup this year.
Even so, Schmitz collected four kills, an ace and two blocks. Meador had five kills and two blocks. Hirsch play a solid all-around game.
"I think they want to win so much. You can try too hard, too," said Berry.
Ahead by 4 points in the first match, Skyline saw Manassas Park rip off 7 straight points for an 11-8 lead.
At this point, throughout the three games, Berry, her team and fans were looking for someone to step up and break the Manassas Park trance.
That job went to Jessica Sims and Meador, whose two kills brought Skyline within 11-10.
There were then three ties and two lead changes. Skyline's final advantage came at 16-15. The last tie was at 19. Manassas Park scored 6 straight points to win it. Dunn collected four kills, one ace and one block in the first game.
In Game 2, Skyline bopped ahead 10-4, but once again the visitor went on a long skein. The Cougars picked up 8 straight points. An ace by Kelly Evans gave them a 13-12 lead.
From that point, there were two lead changes and two ties.
Manassas Park scored 4 straight points as Lopez's ace gave the Panthers an 18-14 advantage.
Skyline's outscored Manassas Park 5-1 to tie the match at 19.
Hoping for another Hawk to step up, Skyline made two errors and dropped behind 23-20.
Game 3 also started with the hosts enjoying a 2-0 lead.
Ahead 7-6, the Hawks permitted the Panthers to get re-involved. Six consecutive tallies – including a block/kill by Jennifer Akaniya, two more by Dunn and an ace by Jess Tibbs expanded the visitors' lead to 13-7.
The Cougars' biggest lead was by 9. The Hawks forced four match points before succumbing.
"This is Yanira's second varsity season," said Darlington. "She's been good, but not this good. Brooke transferred to us last year from Hawaii."
"They want it," said Riley. "The talent is there. We can win. We just have to have fun out there and just play."