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WYTHEVILLE –– After a combined 40-plus matches played by Galax and Fort Chiswell, the entire previous three months all came down to one little game to 15.
In a one-match playoff to decide the Mountain Empire District regular season championship, Fort Chiswell rallied from a 6-2 deficit in the fifth game and scored the final eight points to defeat Galax 17-25, 26-24, 19-25, 25-17, 15-9 at George Wythe High School.
Fort Chiswell (15-5) earned the No. 1 seed in the MED tournament and, more importantly, locked up a spot in the Region C field. Galax (12-9) will have to battle through the tournament to advance to the regionals.
The fifth game couldn’t have started much better for Galax, which regrouped after a shaky finish to the fourth. Two Jamie Cockerham kills and another by Allison White had the Tide leading 6-2.
Fort Chiswell’s Kayla Gravley began the Pioneers’ turnaround with a big kill, and a pair of misplays by the Tide knotted the game at 7-7.
Galax took its final lead, 9-8, on an out of bounds Pioneer volley, but Galax returned the favor with an errant kill attempt, sending the serve over to Fort’s Emily Steed.
Steed continued what would become an 8-0 run with an ace, followed by three Pioneer kills. The final three points came on two hitting errors and a Nancy Thacker block.
Galax twice led by a game and was ever so close to leading by two, falling 26-24 in the second. An 8-0 run midway through the opening game put momentum squarely on the Tide’s side as two Cockerham kills, two Allison White blocks and a pair of aces by Cockerham put Galax up 13-5. A tremendous dig by Arianna Sexton led to an Allison DeSanto kill for an 18-12 lead, and Galax closed out the first game on two Pioneer errors.
Fort Chiswell led 23-19 in the second game before Galax battled back and tied it at 24 on a Sexton ace, but a missed serve and an Amy Porter block knotted the match at a game apiece.
Four straight Cockerham kills spotted the Tide a 4-0 lead and led to a pair of early timeouts for the Pioneers, stoppages that would have come in handy later on. Fort answered with a 5-0 run and the two teams battled evenly to a 19-19 tie, but with no timeouts left, Fort couldn’t stop a 7-0 finish by Galax that included five Pioneer errors.
Fort Chiswell rolled in the fourth game behind six early winners by Gravley, who finished with 21 kills. Porter came up with 26 digs and Thacker set up 35 assists.
Cockerham put away an eye-popping 29 kills for Galax and Jenna White set the table with 34 assists. Allison White added nine kills with seven more from Sexton.