In one of the best, if not the best, match of the season, Chilhowie escaped with a 23-25, 26-24, 25-22, 16-25, 16-14 win over Rye Cove to claim the regional championship at Castlewood High School.
“That was the match of the year, maybe in the state. That was a fantastic match. Anybody who came tonight got their money’s worth,” said Rye Cove coach Greg Gilliam.
Both Chilhowie (26-2) and Rye Cove (25-6) will play in the VHSL Class 1A state tournament. In Saturday’s quarterfinal matches, Chilhowie will host Auburn, while Rye Cove travels to Narrows.
Gilliam said two things stopped his team from ultimately winning the regional title.
“Inconsistent serving. We missed 12 serves. We don’t miss 12 serves in two or three matches. It seemed like every time we needed to get our serves going we’d miss a serve and give the momentum back to them. That was one key. Another was serve-receiving. When we needed to make some passes off serve-receive and run our offense we didn’t do it. Especially in the last set.”
With the match tied at 2-2, Chilhowie took control of the fifth game early by building a 6-1 advantage. But Rye Cove fought back and cut the lead to 14-13. A return error by the Lady Warriors tied the game at 14 and gave Rye Cove the serve. But a return error from Rye Cove and a kill gave Chilhowie the victory.
“I thought we did really well at the net,” said Gilliam.
“I was proud of our effort. Both teams played hard. But we never gave up. We came back several times from being down. When it was 12-5 here in the last set most teams would have given up, but my team didn’t, and I’m proud of that.”
Chilhowie also battled back from big deficits throughout the match, which made Lady Warriors coach Laura Robinson equally proud.
“One thing that I credit these girls with is when things get tough they really can get their heads together. I’ve always said volleyball is a mind game. You’ve got to have your mind set the right way. And so much focus on the court,” said Robinson. “Also, they’ll tell you, they all play with heart. And that’s just one of their big mottos, put your heart into it.”
Senior Shelby Murphy led Chilhowie with 18 kills and 18 digs, while Leah Kestner finished with 15 kills and 17 digs. Bailey Sheets added 38 assists and 10 digs for the Lady Warriors. Rachael Williams finished with 24 assists and Jacey Gollehon contributed 18 digs.
Rye Cove got a balanced attack at the net with Haley Tomlinson finishing with 16 kills, Abby Vicars adding 14 kills, Callie Richardson finishing with 12 kills and Abigail Roller knocking down 10 kills. Richardson and Roller also had two blocks each, while Vicars added 26 digs. The Lady Eagles also got 55 assists and 11 digs from Reagan Kerns and 24 digs from Kaleigh Sloan.