Lady Rams clinch share of another league title
by Matthew Gorry Sports Writer
BOONVILLE — Donning white and teal jerseys in honor of fallen teammate Meme Brown, the Lady Rams took care of business Tuesday night in convincing fashion on “Meme Brown Night.”
After honoring Brown in an emotional pregame ceremony, Starmount swept second-place Alleghany to earn at least a share of the Mountain Valley Conference championship for the seventh-straight season.
“We have a two-game lead in the conference with two games left, so that at least clinches a tie. But I like my chances to win the conference now,” Head Coach Jon Symons explained. “The big thing is getting that No. 1 seed. We’ve put ourselves in a position to get at least two matches at home in the playoffs, maybe three, maybe four, maybe five — all depending on the priority seeding.”
The Rams jumped out to an 8-4 advantage in the opening game, taking control early. Starmount then pushed the lead out to 17-10, forcing the Trojans to call a timeout.
Alleghany could not fight back as the Rams cruised to the 25-14 triumph.
The Trojans hung tough in the second set, matching Starmount point for point to open the game. After pulling ahead at 11-10, the Rams started rolling, closing on a 14-2 spurt to win big, 25-12.
Alleghany battled in the final game as neither team managed to build a lead. After the Trojans grabbed a 14-13 advantage, Starmount scored the next nine points to jump ahead 23-14.
The Rams put the finishing touches on the game and the match, winning 25-18 to complete the sweep for their 12th conference win of the season.
“We had some mistakes tonight that I think we can correct. But as far as effort, you can’t fault them; they played hard tonight,” Symons said. “I told them after the match that that was the way we should play every match. We should be inspired every night by just wearing the same jersey Meme wore and play like she played.”
Hunter Welborn continued her tear, recording 15 kills, 11 blocks and eight digs — just missing out on a triple-double — while Haley Hartman added 10 kills, nine digs, two assists and two blocks.
Erin Barr tallied 38 assists on the night to go with seven kills and two blocks. Ashley Johnson (15-for-15) and Alli St. John (22-for-26) continued to dominate from behind the service line with four aces between them.
“I’m sure the scouting reports on us are: sit on Hunter, Haley is a good outside and they have a really good setter (Barr), but the younger kids (Johnson, St. John, Alli Jones, Brittany Zeller) are starting to make a difference now. That’s the fun thing to watch because you know we can get even better if they get better,” Symons said.
The win was the Rams’ 35th-straight sweep in conference play, pushing an overall win streak to over four years. Starmount has not dropped a game against a league opponent since 2011 (a 3-1 win over Forbush).
The Rams dominance on the volleyball has stretched over nearly a decade, but Symons could not recall exactly how many conference titles the 2013 championship makes in a row.
The Rams, now 19-5 overall, are poised to wrap up the league’s No. 1 seed in the upcoming 1A state playoffs. Symons said he likes his team’s chances heading into the postseason.
“I think we have a chance to go far in the playoffs,” he said. “I don’t know what 1A holds, I haven’t been in 1A in eight years, but I like where we are. When we play smart and play with enthusiasm, we’re tough to beat.”
Starmount returns to the floor Thursday against Wilkes Central before returning home Tuesday against East Wilkes on Senior Night.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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