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Cave Spring came into Tuesday's Group 3A state semifinal match against Warhill wanting desperately to avenge a loss to the Lions during the 2014 Group 3A state championship match.
The Lions had no intentions of being bested on their home court, staving off a tough Cave Spring team 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-17 to advance to the Group 3A state championship match for the third consecutive year.
When asked how Warhill pulled off another 3-1 win against Cave Spring in the state tournament, Warhill Coach Greg Koon shook his head, smirked and simply replied, "luck."
Luck was not on Warhill's side in the first set of Tuesday's match. The Lions dominated the opening portion of the first set, building a decisive 18-10 advantage over the Knights.
However, the Knights reeled off an 11-1 run to take a 20-19 lead and shell shock the Lions. Led by senior Piper Roe, a University of Louisville commit, Cave Spring continued its impressive streak of play by winning five of the final eight points to take the opening set.
Strong serving from the Lions over the final three sets kept Roe at bay, allowing the Warhill blockers to establish themselves on defense.
Taking on a Cave Spring lineup with multiple 6-foot blockers, Warhill's Cori Clifton had perhaps her best match of the season with a triple-double of 16 assists, 14 kills and 10 digs.
"It was a huge performance for Cori," Koon said. "I thought as far as her approach and attacking the ball, it looked a thousand times better than it has all season."
Strong blocking and defense aside, the Lions still found themselves in a 15-11 hole in the second set until Nicole Mulligan took over the match.
With Mulligan serving, and at one point recording four consecutive aces, the Lions were able to pull ahead 19-16. Mulligan finished with a match-high seven aces.
From that point on, the Lions never looked back and trailed only once for the remainder of the match. Warhill took six of the final nine points to tie the match at 1-1.
Strong serving from the Lions allowed them to build a 10-5 edge over the Knights in the opening moments of the third set. Cave Spring continued to claw back into the set, pulling within one point of Warhill with the score 19-18.
Warhill refused the buckle under the pressure, calmly winning four straight points and retaking control of the set. With a five-point lead in hand, the Lions were able to comfortably close out the third set to take a 2-1 lead over Cave Spring.
After three intense sets, Warhill managed to assert its dominance over the Knights in the fourth set by taking an early 6-2 lead. Cave Spring stayed within striking distance for the first half of the set, but a 7-0 run by Warhill to go up 24-13 put the set out of reach.
A last-ditch 4-0 run by Cave Spring proved fruitless as a kill by Warhill's Chloe Wilmoth sealed the match for the Lions and ended Cave Spring's season.
With the victory, Warhill (20-5) will advance to take on Group 3A West champions Hidden Valley during Saturday's Group 3A state championship match at Virginia Commonwealth University.
For Koon, being able to make the state championship match for a third consecutive year has been a very satisfying experience after starting the season 2-3.
"I can't be more proud of the girls," he said. "They've worked so hard and have come so far from where they were even a month ago. The intestinal fortitude they are showing is admirable."
Warhill def. Cave Spring 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-17
Cave Spring: Piper Roe (16 kills, 4 blocks), Meagan Harrison (33 assists, 6 blocks), Alayna Foutz (14 digs)
Warhill: Chloe Wilmoth (12 kills, 24 assists, 7 digs), Cori Clifton (14 kills, 16 assists, 10 digs), Nicole Mulligan (22 kills, 10 digs, 7 aces)
Jamestown Tops Woodgrove to Reach State Championship
For the third time in five seasons, Jamestown has earned the right to play for a state championship.
Jamestown punched its ticket to Saturday's Group 4A state championship match Tuesday, defeating Woodgrove 25-9, 25-18, 17-25, 25-21 at home.
The Eagles had no trouble getting past the Group 4A West runner-up in the first set. Behind strong two-way play from Maggie Viniard, who finished with a match-high 40 assists to go with 17 digs, Jamestown's offense and defense clicked en route to a 25-9 win.
While more difficult than the first set, Jamestown still took the second set with relative ease. With the final point of the set logged, Jamestown had secured a 25-18 set win and a 2-0 match lead.
The Eagles suffered a bit of a setback in the third set as Woodgrove got on the board with a 25-17 victory and forcing Jamestown to not be complacent with its lead.
In the most competitive set of the night, Jamestown managed to stave off Woodgrove by four points in the fourth set to advance to the state championship match.
Jamestown (25-3) will now prepare to take on Group 4A West champions Loudoun County during Saturday's Group 4A championship match at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jamestown def. Woodgrove 25-9, 25-18, 17-25, 25-21
Jamestown: Ellie Popelka (21 kills, 8 digs, 2 blocks), Emma Schriner (10 kills), Maria Esch (11 digs, 10 kills, 3 aces, 2 blocks), Maggie Viniard (40 assists, 17 digs)