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Coming back from five-point deficits in volleyball isn’t a particularly easy thing to do. Coming from five down in the fifth set when an opponent has all the momentum and just three points to go is almost unheard-of.
Grayson County stormed back from a 12-7 hole in the fifth set by scoring the match’s final eight points, swiping what had seemed like a certain win from Galax in a 25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 20-25, 15-12 battle Thursday at Galax High School.
With the intensity and nerves ramped to a near-fever pitch in the fifth set, Galax took a 12-7 lead on a well-placed tip by Stacy Shumate. Hanging on by a thread, Grayson County called a timeout, regrouped, returned to the floor and finished with the remarkable 8-0 run.
“We fell into a hole that took a lot of mental toughness to climb out of,” Blue Devil coach Brianna Rhodes said. “I simply told the girls to never give up. I was very proud of them because they easily could have given up.”
And not that Galax fell apart. Grayson just won it. Only two of the final eight points were on Tide errors. Six of the points – four kills and two blocks – were winners by Camryn McGrady. The Blue Devils made no mystery of where the ball was going, either. Leading 14-12 and with a pass headed toward setter Taylor Cannaday, Rhodes screamed “Give it to her! Give it to her!”
As she had done on points 8, 11 and 14, Cannaday lofted a set to McGrady, who slammed the ball home for her 24th kill of the night. The previous point had been won with her 11th block, and she also registered 10 digs.
“McGrady is really hard to deal with, especially in the middle,” Tide coach Yerrick Stoneman said. “She’s one of the state’s better players, regardless of class.”
“She was huge the entire night,” Rhodes said. “She had some serving issues but she was able to forget that and move on to the next play, which shows how much she’s matured as a player.”
Grayson County had built comfortable leads of 22-14 and 20-10 in the first two sets, holding on to take those games lead by a slim four and five points, respectively, as the Maroon Tide battled back each time.
“They were hitting them all over the place and it was hard to get to all those spots,” said Stoneman.
Galax evened the match by keeping Grayson within reach in the third and fourth sets, winning both. Down 19-17 in the third, the Tide’s Susan Davis rocketed three aces at the Devils to go with winners from Shumate and Lindsey Ayers as Galax surged into a 22-19 lead en route to cutting the match score to 2-1.
Galax was all over the floor defensively in the fourth. A cross-court kill from Morgan Neff was followed by two huge digs by the Tide to set up a Madison Shupe kill for an 18-12 advantage, leading to a squared match after four games.
“The third, fourth and fifth set we did a lot better job of getting the ball up,” Stoneman said. “I contribute a lot of that to Lindsey Ayers, who had 18 digs, and Paige Hanks had 17.”
“In the first two sets our adrenaline was really high, and we kind of crashed in the third and really struggled,” Rhodes said.
Galax also made a rotation adjustment that seemed to pay off in the second half of the night.
“We put Madison in the back and Stacy up front and I think that changed a lot,” said Stoneman. “Madison’s last seven [kill] attempts she was able to put down, and Stacy stepped up. She didn’t start the first two but she stepped in and did well.”
Neff led the Maroon Tide with 16 kills while Hanks and Ayers added nine and eight, respectively.
Freshman middle Jenna Holdaway had seven blocks for the Blue Devils.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Galax for their fight,” said Rhodes. “After losing the first two sets they just kept on fighting. They did a great job of maintaining focus, which is a major element of success in the game. We all know the huge rivalry between the two of us and it’s always fun to watch kids really give it all they’ve got.”