GREENVILLE — It took four hard-fought games, but Fort Defiance handed Riverheads its first loss of the season in Shenandoah District volleyball action Tuesday evening, 25-22, 19-25, 25-19, 25-19. The win lifts the Indians to 12-2 overall and 2-0 in the district. Riverheads falls to 10-1.
The two cross-county rivals were evenly matched throughout the evening and the crowd was rewarded by some scrappy volleyball as a result. The opening game was back and forth from start to finish. With the game locked at 11-11, the Indians relied on the net play of Lani Goggin and Maggie Trainum to move in front 16-12.
Riverheads pulled back into the game off the net play of Abbey Eavers, but Fort setter Maddie Painter kept finding Indian hitters as Goggin and Trainum sent the ball to the floor time after time. Riverheads pulled within one, 22-21 when Kendyl Argenbright aced a serve, but the Indians got the ball back and were able to capture the first game, 25-22.
The Gladiators bounced back in the second game, grabbing the lead from the onset and then relying on the net play of Argenbright for a series of offensive hits and a kill. The Indians battled back to lock the game at 6-6.
The contest would be knotted four more times, the last at 14-14 before Riverheads took charge for good. Eavers’ kill gave Riverheads the win in the second game, 25-19.
Riverheads rode that momentum to a quick lead in the third game, but the Indians bounced back with the Painter-Goggin offensive machine in high gear.
After falling behind, Gladiator hitter Sydney Phillips slammed down a spike to knot the game at 10-10. Riverheads trailed the rest of the way as Trainum’s hard hit got Fort within one and Jordan Schulz then served up the winning point to take game three, 25-19.
With the match on the line in game four, Riverheads rode the offensive play of Phillips to jump to an early 7-5 lead.
Fort’s Kiersten Garber then became an unstoppable force at the net to pull her team even and then grab the lead. When Goggin put the ball down hard to give the Indians at 17-15 lead it turned the tide.
MaKayla Kershner served up four straight points to make it 21-15, before Riverheads could answer. Goggin’s kill made it 23-18 and the Garber finished out the night with a pair of hits after her teammates scrambled and dove to get the ball back up to her. Garber’s last hit gave the Indians the game and match, 25-19.
“We played great defense tonight,” Fort coach Sue Leonard said.
“That was the difference. We brought up a lot of balls that turned into hits because we have Maddie Painter (Fort’s setter) who can get to anything,” she added.
Leonard pointed to the defensive play of Schulz, Ellie Cook, and Lindsay Atkins. Atkins finished the night with 24 digs.
Offensively the Indians were led by Goggin with 19 kills, one ace, and five blocks. Garber had 16 kills, and Painter had 45 assists, two blocks, and 22 digs. The Indians travel to Buffalo Gap on Thursday.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season, Gladiator coach Nyssa Stapleton was pleased with her team’s play.
“We’ve been waiting for the opportunity to play a really tough team," she said. "Our girls played really well and hung in there."
Sparking the Gladiator squad was Phillips with seven kills, 14 digs, and two aces, Eavers with 20 kills, four blocks, and 10 digs, and Dayton Moore with 40 assists, 10 digs, and two kills.
The Gladiators host Stuarts Draft on Thursday.
Fort also took the junior varsity match, 25-14, 25-20.