The rivals from the traditionally strong Mountain 7 both claimed tough semifinal wins Saturday night at the Bearcat Den, Union eliminating inspired John Battle 25-23, 25-19, 25-17 and Gate City pulling a 22-25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-19 shocker over homestanding Virginia High.
The Lady Bears and Lady Blue Devils will meet back here Tuesday night for the Region 2D championship, with the winner earning the right to host a first-round state tournament game on Saturday. Tuesday’s loser would travel.
Both teams will meet Region C opponents.
BEARS GET IT DONE
Union (23-8) led throughout its match, but the Lady Bears were never able to shake Battle (12-15), a surprise winner over Lebanon in first-round regional play.
“Listen, John Battle played their hearts out, absolutely played their hearts out,” said veteran Union coach Kim Moore. “They gave us a heck of a game.
“If you’d have seen us at the very beginning of the season you’d know it’s been quite a journey for us, but I’m proud of my team tonight. We were able to get it done against a team that really showed a lot of heart.”
Union received its usual terrific play at the net from senior twin towers Emili Brooks (21 kills) and Jayda Smith (16 kills), but Moore said there was more to it.
“We’ve got some hitters who can really put it down and finish, yes,” the coach said. “But tonight I want to give one of my other girls a shoutout — Desi Brooks, she played awesome tonight and really stepped up for us.
“So for me in this game, (sophomore) Desi Brooks gets MVP.”
Statistically, Isabella Blagg had 24 digs for the Lady Bears, who were the regular-season champions of the M7. Teammate Brook Bailey produced 20 digs and a whopping 42 assists.
For Battle, Bethany Smith’s 22 digs led a stout defensive effort.
“We left it all out there,” said Lady Trojans coach Brittni Haderer. “There’s no way I could be more proud of my volleyball team.”
BLUE DEVILS SOAR
Veteran coach Amy Reed, with a handful of state championships in her back pocket, has seen it all from the sideline, but perhaps even she is a bit surprised that this particular group of Lady Blue Devils is marching to the promised land.
“I’m glad with this group to get back (to state),” Reed said. “We’re not done, though. We still have to work and get better each game.
“We’ve got two more matches, two more opportunities so ... All the players, they’ve got to want it more than the coach and they’ve got to fight for it.”
Gate City (18-10) fought hard to knock off Virginia High, the top seed out of the Southwest District. The Lady Bearcats finished with a 25-6 record.
After allowing Virginia High to come back from an 8-2 deficit and win the first set, the Lady Blue Devils owned the remainder of the evening.
“We won it by working together and being patient with our opportunities,” Reed said. “Our serve-receive was pretty good today and we got balls to the hitters.
“This is the time of year you’ve got to swing or you go home. We did tonight.”
Statistically, senior Aubrey Penley recorded her 1,000th dig of the season, finishing the game with 13. Lexie Summers led the Lady Devils with 19 digs.
Offensively, sophomore Ashley Stanley (20 assists, 15 kills) was singled out by Reed, who received 24 assists from Kaley Jenkins and nine kills, four blocks from junior Kenslee Hammonds.