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Chargers bump Galax for title

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The Maroon Tide fell in five sets in the region finals to Bath County for the second straight year.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

There were a total of 205 points played and won in the Region C Division 1 volleyball championship match Thursday at Galax High School. Points No. 181 and 182 are the ones the Maroon Tide will remember.

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Leading two sets to one and tied at 24 in the fourth game, Galax was two points away from claiming its first region championship in volleyball when Bath County pulled out the set, then pulled away in the fifth to successfully defend its title 25-15, 17-25, 24-26, 26-24, 15-8.

Both teams advance to this week’s Division 1 state tournament. Galax (24-2), which lost last year’s region title to the Chargers in five sets, will travel to the Region D champion, either Rye Cove or J.I. Burton, while Bath County (23-4) earned the right to host the Region D runner-up.

“We are extremely proud of our team,” Galax coach Rose Houk said. “We fought hard and we played with a lot of heart and desire. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve just got to put this one behind us and get ready for the next one.”

Each team had blown out the other in splitting the first two sets, with the second two sets featuring the back-and-forth action one would expect from a region final. Knotted at 24 in the fourth game, Bath’s Jordan Fry tipped a winner into an open spot in the Maroon Tide defense and Katie Rice’s subsequent serve was shanked on the return, giving the Chargers the necessary two-point spread and tying the match a two sets apiece.

Galax and Bath alternated winning the first seven points of the fifth game with the Chargers pulling out in front with a 5-0 run keyed by two kills by Fry, plus an ace by Rice. The Maroon Tide would be no closer than four points again.

“We got out of synch and couldn’t get it going in the fifth set,” said Houk. “We played too safe.”

With the first eight points decided on kills and blocks, the opening minutes of the fifth game were the polar opposite of the first set. Despite the experience prominent on both rosters, seven of the match’s first nine points were on unforced errors.

First to shake off the nerves, Bath County pulled out to a 12-5 lead and didn’t allow Galax within seven points the rest of the game, winning 25-15.

Galax answered in kind and never trailed in the second, stretching a 9-5 lead out to 16-12 before stomping the gas pedal with a 5-0 spurt.

Real volleyball commenced from there. The third and fourth sets both went to extra points and featured 19 ties and 10 lead changes.

Bath took six straight points and led 11-6 in the third on a kill by Ally Cutlip but Galax won the next six points, including spikes by Taylor Bryant and Paige Hanks. The Tide trailed 24-20 when kills by Harley Brewer and Bailey Shumate sparked a 6-0 run. Brewer’s block tied the game at 24, and Shumate’s kill was the winner as Galax took the set for a 2-1 match lead.

Galax rallied from five points down in the fourth, catching the Chargers at 19 on an Allison White kill, another Brewer block and a thunderous smash from Shumate. The two were tied again at 20, 21, 23 and 24 before Bath pulled out the set.

The loss snapped a 23-match winning streak for the Maroon Tide.

Shumate finished with a team-high 22 kills to go with 15 assists. White tallied 11 kills, 15 digs and a pair of blocks and Brewer came up with seven kills and three blocks. Grace Wilson provided 15 assists and 12 serving points.

Amanda Shifflett and Katie Rice put away 20 kills apiece for the Chargers. Fry added 11 kills and Ashley Rice supplied 49 assists.