BOONVILLE - While honoring a former player, the Lady Rams turned in their finest performance of the season Saturday.
In honor of Meme Brown - a 2009 graduate and volleyball standout who passed away two nights later - Starmount hosted a benefit tri-match to both raise money for one of their own, but also to prepare for the upcoming state playoffs.
“We try to do this every year,” head coach Jon Symons explained. “Coach Kelan Rogers (Carson) and George Folger (Reagan) are good friends of mine. I want them to be successful at 4A for Reagan and Carson at 3A. So we all come together, some of the better programs in the region the last Saturday before the playoffs, and play and try to beat each others’ brains in. But it makes you better for the state playoffs.
“They are two good coaches and two good guys that really wanted to do it and have been so supportive of today and what it meant for us,” he added.
While playing with heavy hearts, MaxPreps’ fifth-ranked 2A squad reeled off two statement wins, knocking off both Carson and Reagan, 3-1.
Against Reagan to open the benefit, Starmount won the final two sets to top the Central Piedmont Conference leading Raiders.
In the first set with the teams knotted up at 13-13, the Rams scored two quick points to take a 15-13 lead, leading to a Reagan timeout.
Coming out of the break, powered by the serving of Erin Barr, Starmount scored the final three points to close out the set 25-19 to take a 1-0 advantage.
The Raiders bounced back in the second game, taking a 6-5 lead early on and never looked back. The Rams cut the lead down to four and 22-18, but were unable to claw their way back, falling 25-19 to even the match at 1-1.
Starmount took control in the third game, grabbing a 6-5 advantage. Reagan battled back to take a 17-16 lead late, but the hot serving of Sydney Caudle helped the Rams close out the set to take a 2-1 overall lead.
Showing the same fight and determination that Brown displayed during her battle, the Rams scrapped back from an early 5-1 deficit in the decisive fourth game.
Starmount battled back to tie the set at 10-all before scoring eight of the next 10 points to take an 18-12 advantage. From there, the Rams hung on for the 25-21 win to take the match 3-1.
“We had some tough moments in both matches that we kind of got down,” Symons explained. “We had a timeout and talked about some things and they picked themselves up and we kept fighting and fighting.”
The Rams exacted revenge from a sweep at the hands of the Raiders earlier this season in a preseason tri-match. The loss to Reagan is one of Starmount’s three losses on the year.
The other two - both sweeps - came courtesy of 3A powerhouse Carson, the Rams’ second opponent on the afternoon.
Starmount got revenge on the Cougars as well, winning the first two sets before closing things out in the fourth game. In two back-and-forth games, the Rams showed their mettle against the sixth-ranked 3A squad in the state, according to MaxPreps.
In the first set, Ashton Gregory combined on a block for the final point in a thrilling 26-24 win. The margin of victory was a little more comfortable in the second game as Starmount scored five of the final six points behind Rachel Wagoner’s serves to jump out to a surprising 2-0 lead.
Carson battled back in the third set, jumping out to a 5-0 advantage and lead from start to finish in a 25-19 win to trim the match to 2-1.
But the Rams reeled off arguably their best game of the year in the fourth, exploding out of the game to a 5-1 and 15-9 lead. Starmount scored 10 of the final 13 points to close out the Cougars 3-1 with a 25-13 victory.
“We played hard. Carson and Reagan are both very strong teams; two of the better schools in the area. And for Starmount to come out and play the way we did - not just the competitiveness, but actually end up winning both matches - says a lot about the girls and the effort they put forth,” Symons said.
“I thought Haley [Hartman] played unreal. That dig she made in game two against Carson at middle back, I almost peed myself it was so nice. Erin put up some nice balls. She made some plays today that broke some ankles. Ashton is pounding the ball. Hunter [Welborn] is working to get better. Rachel played a great game against Carson. Sydney came around and dialed in and played defense and is a good libero for us; we count on her. Josie is improving in leaps and bounds - her knee is no longer an issue,” he added.
Starmount closes out its regular season slate this week with matches against Alleghany and North Wilkes in Boonville before the playoff draw.
“We’re looking forward to making this run. We still have two more regular season matches to go and we don’t want to overlook anyone. But it’s hard not to put an eye on what’s coming on the draw on the 20th, and we’re excited,” Symons added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.