Methodical, business-like, almost a human machine of interchangeable parts.
Just a few ways to describe the Deep Run boys volleyball team, who came to Ashland Tuesday night and swept away rival Patrick Henry in straight sets, 25-13, 25-16 and 25-22, to finish their regular season at 21-1.
They extended their streak of sets won to an amazing 43. The Wildcats last lost a set Sept. 5 in a four-set victory over Douglas Freeman. The Patriots, victims of the Wildcats for the second time this season, fell to 15-7, but still took some positives away from the match.
“We just didn’t pass well tonight,” said Patrick Henry head coach Michael Townsend. “And we didn’t play our best.”
The Patriots, buoyed by a large student section in attendance, briefly fought Deep Run tooth and nail, leading 10-8. Christian Taylor then took over, serving the Wildcats to an 11-0 run to seize control of not just the first set, but the match, and the entire gym.
After winning set one 25-13, the dominance continued into the second set, with Deep Run taking leads of 8-0 and 12-1, again with Taylor at the helm pouring serve after serve over the net. Patriot confidence waned severely. Deep Run freely substituted, allowing Patrick Henry to mount a brief comeback before falling in set two 25-16.
The Patriots did show resilience in set three, taking several leads, staving off elimination until junior Craig Nelms slammed the final kill onto the Patriots side to clinch the set at 25-22. Townsend had seen this play before.
“This is exactly how we played the first time against Deep Run,” Townsend said, referring to a 3-0 loss in Twin Hickory Sept. 26. “The first 15 points were close, they took off, the second set wasn’t close, and tonight’s third set was as close as that one.”
After finishing their season at home Wednesday on Senior Night against Douglas Freeman, Patrick Henry prepares now for its first-ever “Central 4” Conference tournament. There is only one state boys volleyball championship, 37 schools in Eastern Virginia and 32 in Central Virginia seeking the crown. The Patriots are grouped with 5A schools from south of the James River in a seven-team tourney with Prince George, L.C. Bird, Manchester, Matoaca, Meadowbrook and Clover Hill. The top seed will receive a bye from Monday’s first round; the entire tournament will take place at Matoaca High School.
Townsend knows what needs to improve from the Deep Run match for his team to make a run next week, trying to grab one of two berths from Central 4 into the Central Zone Region Tournament Nov. 11.
“If we don’t pass well, we don’t run our offense. When we can’t run our offense, we can’t confuse their defense or their blockers,” Townsend noted.
In other boys action, Atlee upended Lee-Davis 3-2 Monday night to finish their regular season at 12-11, as both teams prepared for the Central 3 Conference tournament next week, featuring all the teams from Conference 11. The bad news for the Raiders and Confederates? One of those teams is Deep Run.
In girls’ action, Atlee once again defeated arch-rival Lee-Davis in three sets Tuesday night, 25-19, 27-25 and 25-15, at Senior Night for the Raiders. Lee-Davis fell to 16-6. Both teams finished their regular season Wednesday, with Atlee at Glen Allen, and the Confederates home to Armstrong. Both start postseason action in the Conference 11 Tournament, kicking off Monday, as both teams will serve as hosts for tournament action.
In Conference 20, Hanover improved to 13-9 with a three-set sweep of Armstrong Tuesday night as Sarah Belcher led the Hawks with four kills, two digs, and 11 assists. The Hawks’ postseason tournament will take place at Monacan High School starting Monday. Patrick Henry, meanwhile, begins play in the inaugural Conference 16 Tournament Tuesday.