The victory earned the Lady Eagles (25-5) a spot in tonight’s 7 p.m. championship match against Chilhowie at Castlewood as well as a berth in the VHSL quarterfinals. The Lady Warriors swept previously unbeaten Grundy 25-14, 25-16, 25-16.
Rye Cove had to rally twice to win sets and earn its 12th trip to the state tournament in the past 14 years.
In the opening set, the Lady Eagles led 20-15 only to see the Lady Rebels come back for a 22-21 advantage. The teams traded the lead before Rye Cove tallied the final three points for the win.
Junior Callie Richardson served eight straight points in the second set to give the Lady Eagles a 12-3 lead and from there it was just a math contest.
Patrick Henry (18-11) came out in the third set determined not to be swept. Getting several explosive kills from freshman Jamayia Honaker, the Lady Rebels raced out to a 15-9 lead and eventually to 22-15. A fourth set appeared certain.
“That third set was crazy,” said Rye Cove senior setter Reagan Kerns. “But we’ve been working all year on fighting back and trying to overcome.”
Junior libero Grace Rhoton led the Cove’s comeback. Rhoton stepped to the service line with Patrick Henry ahead 22-16 and when she was done, she’d put up seven consecutive service points and the Lady Eagles held a 23-22 lead.
“Grace just does what she does,” said Rye Cove coach Greg Gilliam. “She’s our spark plug. She’s done that sort of thing all year.”
Patrick Henry fought back, going up 25-24 and serving for the set. But the Lady Eagles answered for the tie, and Kerns slipped a sneaky ball across the net to put Rye Cove up 26-25 with Kerns serving for the match.
Honaker blasted what appeared to be a sure winner for Patrick Henry, but Tomlinson was in perfect position for the block and she sent the ball crashing to the gym floor and the Lady Eagles into a celebration dance.
“I knew where they were going with the ball, so I just got over there as quick as I could,” said Tomlinson, who finished with six kills and two blocks.
Kerns, who finished with 22 assists, seven digs, 12 service points and seven timely kills, gave credit to Rhoton’s serving prowess.
“She controlled the match for us when we needed her the most,” Kerns said. “We didn’t want this to go a fourth set. Tonight people saw that we are fighters.”
“Honestly, I thought Patrick Henry outhustled us tonight,” the coach said. “We learned that we better come ready to play every night.
“But I’m so proud of the girls from coming back like that in the third set, that showed me something.”
Abby Vicars added four kills, 23 digs and six service points for the Cove. Kaleigh Sloan came up with 14 digs, four service points and two kills, Richardson pounded down 10 kills, blocked four shots and served 11 points, and Rhoton finished with 10 service points.
Honaker led Patrick Henry with 11 kills and 22 digs. Hannah Holmes had 37 digs, Gracie Hammond passed out 26 assists and added 32 digs, and Carter Call had 21 digs.