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NOTE: Following completion of the tournament, Galax was awarded the Sportsmanship Trophy for Group A, Division 1.
RICHMOND –– Just like a match scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Galax’s stay at the state volleyball final four was over with way too early.
The Maroon Tide saw its deepest run ever in the postseason come to a close Friday morning as Altavista claimed a 25-22, 25-15, 21-25, 25-13 win in the Group A Division 1 semifinals at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The Colonels advanced to Saturday’s championship match, where they faced Bath County, a 3-1 winner over Riverheads in the other semifinal.
The outcome brought to an end the 31-year coaching career of the Maroon Tide’s Rose Houk.
“I couldn’t have picked a better group of young ladies to be on this wonderful ride with,” said Houk, fighting back tears. “We didn’t win the match but I feel like we won something for our team and our school by making it here.”
Galax (25-3) wasn’t that far away from hanging around another day.
A flurry of Altavista errors midway through the opening set had Galax holding a 17-11 lead, but the Colonels (21-4) found the groove soon thereafter, tying the game with six straight points, including three Karlie Rigler kills. Galax took one last lead, 18-17, before a 5-1 Altavista run carried the Colonels to the 25-22 first-set win.
“They brought their A-game and we didn’t bring ours,” said senior Allison White. “We started out strong but our defense hurt us. Their outside hitters killed us.”
“We’re not used to seeing that kind of hitting,” said fellow senior Bailey Shumate. “[Rigler] was very good.”
Momentum carried over to the second set for Altavista, which breezed to a two-game lead with the 10-point win.
“I feel like nerves got the best of us,” Houk said. “We started out very aggressive and we stopped moving our feet.”
“It wasn’t so much [Altavista] as much as it was the atmosphere,” said White, who had 17 kills, 15 digs and four blocks. “Nobody has been in anything like this, and some of us were kind of timid.”
Added Shumate, “We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win.”
Faced with a shutout, Galax got it going in winning the third set.
“We knew if we didn’t pull it together, we’d be going home,” said Shumate, who had 18 kills and 13 assists.
Three straight Sydney Morris kills put Altavista up 13-10 before Galax rallied with two blocks and a kill from Harley Brewer and an array of smashes from Shumate and White. Brewer would finish with eight blocks.
A 9-3 run boosted the Tide into a 19-16 lead and the teams traded points the rest of the way.
Altavista regrouped to start the fourth set and bolted to a 9-2 lead, coasting to the finish.
“We would dig ourselves a hole, and the whole game we would have to fight to dig our way out of it,” said White.
“I’m very proud of how we turned it around in the third,” said Houk. “We just had trouble getting it going in the fourth game. But I couldn’t be prouder of this team. They made history. They’ve done something no other team has accomplished at Galax.”