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Union outlasts Giles to reach state final four

Kevin Mays • Nov 11, 2018 at 2:05 AM

BIG STONE GAP — Union overcame a tentative start to play itself into school history Saturday.

After dropping the first set and coming close to losing the second set, Union (25-4) came to life to take an 18-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-21 win over Giles in the VHSL Class 2 volleyball quarterfinals.

The Lady Bears advanced to state semifinals for the first time in school history. They will host Radford (24-2) — a 25-16, 25-23, 25-19 winner over Lebanon in the quarterfinal round — on Tuesday.

The match is a rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal, which Radford won 18-25, 25-22, 27-25, 30-28.

SLUGGISH START

The Lady Bears went into Saturday’s match playing very tentatively and appeared as though they were unaccustomed to the big stage of the state playoff field.

“I think we were kind of scared the first set,” said Union’s Emili Brooks. “Then we saw that we could actually do it, we got pumped up and we started playing better.”

Brooks finished the match with 21 kills, 13 digs and three service aces.

Meghan Blagg added 13 kills, Jayda Smith had eight kills and seven blocks, and Zoe Brooks finished with 49 assists and nine blocks for Union. Audrey Gilliam was in charge defensively and totaled 20 digs.

Union coach Kim Moore was proud of the way her team responded after the unsettled start.

“The first set was all tension and fear of failure,” Moore said. “We’ve been preaching all year to relax and just have fun and enjoy the moment.”

After dropping the first set and trailing 21-17 in the second, Moore had another message for her team.

“I told them if you don’t relax and play ball and have fun and enjoy this, you will regret it. You’re too good to play this stressed out,” she said. “That’s the beauty of volleyball; momentum can shift in an instant and I feel like it did.”

FOR THE SPARTANS

Jocelyn Midkitf had 18 kills, Hannah Steele added 16 and Alyssa Pennington had 35 assists to lead Giles.

Giles coach Mandy Havens said her team simply couldn’t maintain the momentum it gained from the first-set win.

“Momentum is the key to any volleyball game. When you’ve got the momentum, you’ve got to be able to keep it,” Havens said. “We’re used to refs calling doubles and nets and there wasn’t a whole lot of that. So that’s a little bit different. And we just didn’t execute our game plan as well. We weren’t hitting as well in that second set as we were in the first set.”

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