Playing perhaps their best match of the year, the visiting Lady Blue Devils claimed a 25-22, 19-25, 25-18, 25-17 Region 2D tournament quarterfinal decision over Marion, advancing to Thursday night’s semifinals.
The Lady Blue Devils, who won the last of their six state championships under Amy Reed in 2013 and 2014, eliminated the region’s newest power.
Marion, the state runner-up in 2015, state champion in 2016 and state quarterfinalist in 2017, saw its season come to an end.
“To come to Marion, which has been the ruler around these parts the last two or three years, and win is huge, to say the least,” said Reed, Gate City’s head coach the past 21 years.
“I’ve pounded and pounded and pounded them all season and tonight the preaching and all that’s gone on finally came together. We pushed all the right buttons.”
SCRAPPY BLUE DEVILS
The No. 2 seed out of the Southwest District, Marion (18-9) enjoyed a noticeable size advantage across the front line, but that didn’t seem to bother Gate City (20-11).
The No. 3 seed out of the Mountain 7 District, the Lady Blue Devils outworked the Scarlet Hurricanes all evening. Marion coach Amanda Hanshew tipped her hat.
“We knew they were going to be scrappy, but they turned it up an extra notch, it seemed,” the 15-year veteran said. “They served us very well and took us out of our offense a little bit. We had trouble getting into a rhythm and stringing together a run of points. But hats off to them. They outplayed us tonight.”
Led by sophomore Sarah Thompson, who had 20 kills, 15 digs and four blocks, and junior Kinslee Hammonds, who totaled nine kills, nine digs, three blocks and four aces, the Lady Blue Devils battled Marion at the net as though their season was on the line — which, of course, it was.
“We must be scrappy to win,” said Reed, who received 43 assists from Lexi Summers. “We don’t have those giants up front like other teams have. We must hustle and outfight the other team. Tonight it all came together.”
In addition, junior Ava Seagle was superb with nine service aces.
“Ava served very aggressively,” Reed said. “She wanted it for her teammates.
“And those other two (Thompson and Hammonds) both played very big tonight. Both are playing out of position but each has accepted their roles for the team.”
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Lady Blue Devils, who next face unofficial tournament favorite Union on its home floor for a shot at returning to the state tournament.
The Lady Bears are the top seed out of the Mountain 7 and beat Gate City in four sets last week in the district tournament semifinals.
“It’ll be a challenge, but so was this one tonight,’’ Reed said. “But that’s the big challenge in there in our locker room, those 13 or 14 girls. I face them every day and a lot of times I feel like a psychiatrist trying to solve all of the team’s problems and not being able to be that coach to get them to do what works.
“But tonight, it all came together and we played a super game,” the coach added.