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Maroon Tide falls in title match

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Galax was again able to rally into a fifth set but Bath County prevailed in the Region C finals.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

 ELLISTON –– Getting anywhere worth being is a process of many steps. Though coming up short to Bath County in a bid for its first region volleyball championship, Galax took another step Thursday.

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The Maroon Tide battled back from a 2-1 deficit but couldn’t complete the comeback a second night in a row and fell to the Chargers 22-25, 25-14, 25-15, 23-25, 15-9 in the Region C Division 1 championship at Eastern Montgomery High School.

Galax (22-3) took a big step in last year’s five-set regional semifinal loss to Radford, which paid off in a five-set win over Craig County in Wednesday’s semis. The difference in the title match Thursday was that defending champion Bath County had made that step before. The Chargers (20-4), who fell in five games to Gate City in last year’s state title match, will host a Division 1 quarterfinal match Tuesday against the loser of the Region D final between Rye Cove and Castlewood. Galax will play its first state tournament match Tuesday at the Region D winner.

“This was a new experience for us,” Galax coach Rose Houk said a day after earning the first state tourney berth in her 30-year career. “I thought Bath County’s experience of being here before showed in that final game and our nerves got the best of us. But now, we see what it is like and hopefully we’ll be ready for Tuesday. I feel we haven’t played our best, so hopefully that will come Tuesday as well.”

Thursday’s final followed much the same script as Wednesday’s semis for Galax, with the Tide winning the opening set, dropping two straight, then rallying to force a fifth set.

Even the fifth started off much the same as the day before, when Galax fell behind before bouncing back to edge Craig. The difference Thursday was that when Bath took the lead, it held on.

Bath took a 4-1 lead on two Amelia Walters kills before Galax pulled to within 5-4 on spikes by Allison White and Harley Brewer. A 5-1 spurt boosted the Chargers into a 14-7 lead when Galax made a run with two straight points before running out of steam.

Galax won 13 of 17 points midway through the opening set, including a 7-0 run spurred by two Bailey Shumate aces, and withstood a late Bath run to take a one-set lead.

“They were riding high early in the game after their big win last night and that helped them,” Bath coach Dave McGee said. “I told my team to expect trouble and to ride the storm out until it settled and I thought we did a good job of that.”

Momentum soon shifted to the Chargers, who took the second game with ease and scored the final six points in the third.

Galax trailed 17-11 in the fourth before coming back to life, pulling to within 20-17 on Kem Simmons’ smash. Despite falling ill on the bus ride and playing only on the front row, White came up big with a block and a kill as Galax caught the Chargers at 22.

Bath won a point, gave it back on a hitting error and Shumate finished off the rally with a pair of kills that sent the Tide into the fifth set.

“We’re so proud of this team,” said Houk. “To come back in the fourth like we did, we couldn’t be prouder. We started using the word ‘believe’ in our timeouts and started to play aggressive. When we play aggressive we’re OK.”

Shumate finished with nine kills and a nine assists, White had eight kills and Simmons added seven kills for the Maroon Tide. Walters led Bath County with 16 kills, Amanda Shifflet had eight more and Ashley Rice put up 34 assists.