By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Aug. 22 — While head coach Susan Henry-Wilson may have a small varsity roster, listing only eight players (six are needed on the floor at one time)…what’s she’s got is talented and experienced for the most part, and there’s even a future star in the making.
The Bulldogs of Luray opened up their 2023 volleyball season with a non-district win over a competitive Stuarts Draft squad in four sets on Tuesday night. Luray could have swept Draft in three straight sets, but they let a 17-9 lead slip away and lost the opening set 26-24. The Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run at one point, but kept allowing the visitors to get back within reach.
Luray seemed to settle in a little more over the next three sets, winning 25-21, 25-15 and 25-22 to claim the match, 3-1, and start off the season with a strong win.
While the Bulldogs have lost a big hitter in Jaidyn McClung — who now plays for Bridgewater College — Luray is developing four more. Senior Gracie Embry lead the Bulldogs in Tuesday’s season-opener with 15 kills and five aces. Embry showed her experience, athletic ability and leadership in both the backcourt and at the net.
The same goes for fellow senior Summer Forder, who has emerged as a team leader this season. Forder recorded 10 kills and five aces on Tuesday. Junior Avery Jewell was the third-most productive Bulldog on the court, with six kills and five aces.
There’s little question that the play of Embry, Forder and Jewell will play a large part in the Bulldogs’ success this season, but the youngest player on the team — the sole sophomore — has quickly emerged in the season opener as a key contributor. Reese Fitton had seven kills and an ace in her varsity debut. At times her inexperience showed, but at other moments fans witnessed the beginning of a great career. Fitton is clearly a future standout that will contribute heavily to this year’s campaign.
Junior Caydence Cave is also a strong setter, who earned second team All-Region and All-District honors a season ago.
There’s a lot of big shoes to fill from last year’s squad that finished runner-up in Region B behind the region’s Player of the Year, McClung, who ended up at Bridgewater, and first team All-Region selection Lindsay Bly, who is now playing volleyball at Eastern Mennonite University. However, while Luray only lists eight players (with 15 on the JV roster), the Bulldogs’ core is solid…and very capable of another run at the Region B title.
Luray (1-0) will next host Buffalo Gap in another non-district matchup at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.