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HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL: Before serves, a gift for solace

Every time the Spotsylvania volleyball team takes the court this season it does so with a heavy heart.

The Knights are still grieving over the sudden death of teammate Jordan Gentile, a 16-year-old junior, on Aug. 25.

Spotsylvania’s players have found comfort from different sources including an unlikely one—rival Courtland.

The Cougars showed up at Spotsylvania on Labor Day with dinner, flowers and well-wishes for the Knights, while they were still reeling.

The gesture meant so much that when the teams faced off for the first time this season Thursday, the Knights wanted to show their appreciation.

They presented Courtland a Spotsylvania team poster that was signed by the players and the coaching staff expressing gratitude for the concern.

“It really touched our hearts that they went out and did that for us, because I couldn’t imagine what they’re going through,” Courtland senior Bianca Rumbaugh said with her voice trembling. “It really touched our hearts that they did that for us. It meant a lot.”

Still, a match had to be played.

The Cougars earned a 3–0 (25–18, 25–17, 25–9) nonconference victory to improve their record to 13–1. Rumbaugh said the Cougars had to remain focused on the game despite the emotions following the presentation.

“We talked a lot about that,” Rumbaugh said. “We wanted to be respectful toward them. We wanted to show them that we care about them. But this is business and we needed a win.”

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Knights (7–3).

Courtland was paced by Josie Till with 14 kills. Anna Gallup added 12 kills and four blocks, while Rumbaugh contributed 28 assists.

The Cougars dominated the third set as they raced out to a 13–0 lead. Cougars coach Bob Hott said he wanted to see that type of performance from his team, especially after it had its 11-game winning streak snapped by Massaponax Monday.

“You get to 11–0 and they’re thinking they’re the big dog or whatever,” Hott said. “So I’m hoping that was one of those losses that can refocus a team.”

Hott said the Cougars played average in a win over Caroline the following night. Courtland players and coaches watched a motivational video before Thursday’s game, and it appeared to work.

“We talked a lot about what the season meant, about passion and about playing because we want to be here, not treating it like something extra on the side,” Till said. “We all dug down deep and actually played with a lot of heart.”

The Knights didn’t lack heart, either. But head coach Lou Wondree said they were a different team following an ankle injury to freshman standout middle blocker Ronnie Lane in the second game. Wondree said Lane “tweaked” her ankle and should be ready when the Knights host King George Tuesday.

“This is going to be hard to get back from because we really were excited about playing them,” Wondree said of the Cougars. “But I believe it’s going to help us in the long run.”

Courtland hosts James Monroe in another nonconference contest Tuesday before a rematch with Conference 22 foe Fauquier on Thursday.

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526