NORTON — Since the school opened in the fall of 2011, Union’s volleyball program has never missed the regional tournament.
Thursday the Lady Bears had to withstand a playoff match and go five sets, but they kept their regional streak alive with a 25-18, 23-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-5 win over Ridgeview at Wise Central.
“I’m glad we’ve continued that with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores,” said veteran Union coach Kim Moore, whose roster features three juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen. “They’ve accomplished their goal this year to make the region.”
Union (5-8) won the region in the fall of 2019, the previous season for volleyball because of the pandemic. But a mass exodus — including all six starters — because of graduation left the Lady Bears in a major rebuilding mode.
But now they will be playing at Virginia High on Monday in the Region 2D quarterfinals.
Moore knows her squad faces an uphill battle against the Lady Bearcats, the top seed from the Southwest District. But Thursday’s celebration was just about achieving a preseason goal.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season with this young team was just to make it to the region. Just to make it there. Tonight we had that opportunity and I’m just proud of the girls for finding a way to make it happen,” Moore said.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
Union and Ridgeview battled evenly through the first four sets, including a second frame that saw six lead changes and 11 ties before the Wolfpack (4-9) escaped with the two-point win.
After rebounding to win the third set before allowing Ridgeview to tie the match at 2, the Lady Bears seemed to find an extra gear in the deciding set.
Union scored seven kills in the fifth stanza, including four from sophomore Isabella Blagg.
Blagg finished with 17 kills and 25 digs.
“We just found our energy, finally, and made hustle plays and didn’t let the ball hit the floor,” she said of her team’s play in the fifth. “We knew if we lost, this would have been the end of our season. We at least wanted to make it to the region.”
The Lady Bears also got 14 kills and 35 digs from Jordan Shuler, and Brooke Bailey finished with 36 assists and 15 digs. Gracie Gibson came through with 41 digs and Shay Henderson added seven kills.
Haley Mullins registered 18 kills and Hailey Sutherland added nine for Ridgeview, which also got 22 assists from Alyssa Price and 11 more from Kassidy Rasnick.
Lorin Phipps led Ridgeview’s defensive effort with 37 digs, Caiti Hill added 24 and Leah Newberry recorded 18 digs and six kills.