SALEM, Va. – It was championship Saturday on the volleyball court as four of our local teams battled for the right to hoist a state championship trophy.
We were treated to an all-local showdown in the Class 1 ranks as Altavista matched up with Auburn. It had been a decade since the Colonels reached the state final before Saturday’s appearance. On the other side of the mach, Auburn entered as winners of 7 state titles, four consecutive. The Eagles experience showed early as they claimed the first two sets, 25-16 and 25-11.
Although down, the Colonels showed fight. They put together an 8-1 run in the third set before claiming it 25-23.
But Auburn’s experience lifted the team to a commanding 25-12 fourth set victory and a 3-1 match win. It proved to be the Eagles 5th consecutive state title, eighth overall.
“I remember having a conversation with them at Liberty camp saying, ‘We can make you a lot better if you’re willing to put the work in’ and they did and they all get along,” said Auburn head coach Sherry Millirons. “A lot of times the issues teams have, I have not had it with these girls.”
“We had a great year and played hard and they just outplayed us, out-coached us, outhit us,” said Altavista head coach Debra Spencer.
At the Class 2 ranks, Bruton and Appomattox County were both playing for the right to win their first ever state championship. It was a hard fought start for the Raiders who jumped to a six point lead in both the first and second sets. But the Panthers dug themselves out of both deficits and in fact won them both 25-22.
Appomattox County found itself in an 0-2 hole but never wavered. Two timely Paisley Mann aces and two Shannon Coleman kills led to a 25-18 set three victory. From there, the Raiders continued to march to a 3-2 victory, claiming the schools first-ever state volleyball title.
“Bruton was awesome,” said Appomattox County head coach Mark Drinkard. “We knew how talented they were, big and athletic. It took us a while to figure out how to get a ball by them and once we diagnosed things we needed to change, the kids just picked them up so well.”
“Just believe and be with your team and never give up and just take every point step by step,” said Raiders senior Aubrey Fulcher.
In 2022, Hidden Valley fought hard but came up short in the championship game, leaving as Class 3 state runner-up. This season, the Titans were out to change the narrative as they battled Grafton. The Titans showed it early, jumping to a 2-0 match lead as Sophie Arnold and Caleigh Ponn continuously exploited a weak spot in the Clippers positioning.
Grafton did catch fire in set three, claiming a 27-25 victory. But Hidden Valley, having lost the 2022 championship in comeback fashion, stayed focused on the task at hand. The Titans would win the match 3-1, winning their first state championship since 2016.
“Overall they’ve had a really great season,” said Haley Quesenberry, a Hidden Valley coach. “They’ve worked really hard with each other on and off the court and they just played their game the entire time and that’s all we asked them to do.”
“I know last year was a tough year but I think it made this year much more special,” said Titans junior Caleigh Ponn. “Knowing we’ve been here before and it wasn’t the outcome we wanted and we just turned it around and we knew that as a team we could do it and we did it and it’s just exciting.”