CHARLOTTESVILLE — None of the pieces of a winning puzzle ever fit together for the Shenandoah Raiders on Tuesday night, and the season ended as a direct result.
The Raiders were defeated by the Eastern Hancock Royals in five sets to finish the campaign at 17-12. The scores were 25-23, 24-26, 25-16, 20-25, 15-10. The Royals move on to Saturday’s second round with a 10-18 record.
Each time Shenandoah lost a set, it bounced back to win the next, but there was no bounce available after the fifth set.
The pivotal sets were the first and, obviously, the fifth.
The Raiders were up in the first for much of that set, leading 17-14 after a Jenna Stewart kill. But the Royals scored four straight to lead 18-17. Shenandoah also was on top later on three different occasions, the last time at 22-21 on an Audrey Duncan kill.
But Eastern’s Emma Weiss had a kill, followed by an ace from Lili Hunt and a kill by Sydni Bednarski. The Royals led 24-22. Stewart took the serve away with a kill and made it 24-23, but a service error gave the home team the win.
The Raiders were on the verge of losing Set 2, trailing 24-23. But Erikka Hill had a pair of kills around an Eastern miscue and the match was even at 1-1. The most lopsided match was the third as the Royals scored seven straight points early for a 10-6 lead, and Shenandoah never recovered.
The Raiders dominated most of the fourth set, leading late 20-15. But the Royals scored five straight to tie it at 20-20. Shenandoah finished with a flourish, scoring the final five points, two coming on a kill and a tip by Stewart.
Early in the final set, it appeared Hill would spark them to finish off Eastern. She had a tip and a kill for a 2-1 lead. The set was tied at 3-3, but Eastern scored seven of the next eight for a 10-4 lead. Two stuff blocks by Hill cut the deficit to 13-10, but a pair of kills by Eastern closed out the match.
When asked whether he felt like his team ever go its rhythm, Shenandoah coach Josh Macintyre answered, “Not one time.”
Then he explained a reason that might have occurred.
“I let them take the week off last week,” said Macintyre. “I was afraid on fall break they might bring the virus back. I am not blaming the seniors or the juniors or the freshmen and sophomores. If it falls on anyone, it has to be me.”
He was also quick to compliment Eastern Hancock on playing well and taking advantage of the Raiders’ lack of cohesion.
“I’ve watched Eastern Hancock, and I’ve never seen them play like that,” he said. “They didn’t do anything special offensively, but they were tenacious on defense. When we made a mistake, they were able to capitalize.”
The Raiders graduate four seniors. Hill, who had 19 kills in the match and Bridget Lohrey, who had 28 assists and five aces. Stewart and Duncan, who also had stellar careers for the Raiders, played their final match.
“Those players accomplished a lot,” said Macintyre. “They will remember what they didn’t do tonight, but they need to remember all that they did do.”