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Having seen enough midway through a lackluster first set in the Region 1A West volleyball quarterfinals Monday, the normally mild-mannered and gentlemanly Yerrick Stoneman slammed his Coke bottle to the hardwood and, while its contents were still airborne, sharply recommended that his players wake up.
Sadly, the Galax coach’s pop bottle did not bounce back. But his team did.
Making more comebacks than the McRib, Galax twice rallied from a one-set deficit, winning the final two games despite trailing late in each, and will move on to the region semifinals after a 16-25, 25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 15-13 win over Radford.
The Maroon Tide (17-4) will face Eastside, a 3-0 winner over Honaker, in Wednesday’s second semifinal at Virginia High’s Bearcat Den. Auburn and Rye Cove will start the double-header at 6 p.m.
Radford (13-6) gave up four straight points and trailed 6-4 in the fifth set before taking a 10-7 lead on its own four-point run. Up 12-10, an errant serve handed the ball to Galax’s Paige Hanks, whose ace capped yet another 4-0 spurt and put the Maroon Tide over the top for good.
“A lot of it has to do with our seniors,” Stoneman said. “We had four seniors on the floor. Mo (Morgan Neff) has been there for four years, Paige for three and [Susan Davis and Lindsey Ayers] have started since last year. They’ve been in this situation before. We knew what the pressure was like. We played loose, even if we did get down.”
Looking at it in that vein, the Maroon Tide had plenty of chances to play loosely. After trailing for almost all of the first set, Galax needed a 4-0 run in the second, fueled by kills from Neff and Madison Shupe, to take an 18-15 lead. The two teams were deadlocked at 18, 19 and 20 before Galax finished with a 5-1 run.
Julia Hopkins recorded six winners down the stretch in the third as Radford used an 8-1 run to rally from an 18-15 hole and into a two games-to-one lead.
Hopkins, who finished with 24 kills, stayed hot in the fourth set and the Bobcats were a point away from moving on to the next round, leading 24-22, when a Neff kill – the biggest of her 18 on the night – landed just inside the end line to start a 4-0 run to the finish, ending with a Hanks spike that squared the match at two sets each. Neff and Hanks were set up by Davis, who finished with 42 assists. Shupe would add 13 kills, while Neff (26 digs), Shupe (25) and Davis (15) keyed the defense.
Galax may have been a tad too loose in the first set. Five straight Radford points, three on Galax errors, put the Bobcats up to stay as the Tide never found a rhythm early on, giving up 13 first-set points on an array of miscues while managing just 16 points itself.
Thus the airing of the grievances by Stoneman, along with the hurling of the sacrificial Coke bottle.
“It was a substitution error, and we have been doing that [rotation] all year,” he said. “That shouldn’t have happened. We didn’t know when we were supposed to sub in, but a lot of it’s my fault.”
Stoneman said he noticed the error but didn’t react in time and that he accepted a lot of the blame.
“But the girls haven’t seen that side of me,” he said. “Throwing a Coke bottle’s not the answer, and I should have found something else.”
If nothing else, a better trajectory.
“Unfortunately some of it got on my superintendent,” Stoneman said, “so part of my check might be going to his dry-cleaning bill.”
After two regular-season wins over Marion, Grayson County couldn’t find the final point Saturday and dropped a 25-19, 15-25, 21-25, 25-23, 17-15 decision to the Scarlet Hurricane in the conference tournament finals at Marion Senior High.
A 4-0 run had the Blue Devils (18-4) leading 14-13 and serving for match point in the fifth set before Marion rallied for the win.
Camryn McGrady finished with 20 kills while Taylor Cannaday added 10 kills to her 31 assists for the Blue Devils.
Margaret Wagner paced Marion (20-4) with 15 kills and 23 digs, Baker Cullop put away 12 kills and Jordan Williams provided 45 assists.