By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 20 — It’s been seven years since the Luray High School volleyball team has advanced to the state tournament, and eight years since the Bulldogs reached the state championship. Now, this extraordinary group of athletes — most of whom contributed to Luray’s first-ever state title in girls basketball exactly two months ago (to the day) — look to keep making history and earn the Bulldog’s first state title in volleyball since 1988.
In a 2A state semifinal on Tuesday, Luray faced a tough opponent in Poquoson. The Islanders defeated Nottoway in three straight sets last week to win their third-consecutive Region 2A title. The Bulldogs defeated Clarke County, 3-1, last Thursday to claim the Region 2B championship and its first state playoff berth since 2014.
On Tuesday, Luray jumped out to an 8-2 advantage in the first set and never relinquished the lead. Poquoson pulled within two points late in the set at 20-18, but the Bulldogs would score the final five points and close out a 25-18 win. Sophomore Jaidyn McClung lead the way with five kills.
The Islanders flipped the script in the second frame, scoring seven of the first eight points in the set for a 7-1 lead. Luray narrowed to the gap to as little as three points, but never got any closer. Poquoson’s standout senior and co-captain Chloe Dupuis began to make a big impact in the second frame and set the tone for the Islander’s offense for the rest of the match as they went on to a 25-18 win.
The third set ended with the same score as the first two, as Luray took a 2-1 edge in the match with a 25-18 win. The set was tied four times early before Luray went on a 5-0 run to open up an 11-6 lead. The Bulldogs maintained their edge behind strong play from McClung and senior striker Brynlee Burrill, who was recently named the Bull Run District Player of the Year.
The fourth and decisive set was hard fought, as both sides exchanged momentum and knotted up the score a half dozen times. Luray broke out to an 11-6 lead, but the Islanders kept chipping away at the home team. Poquoson put together a 6-0 run at one point that flipped a 16-13 deficit into a 19-16 advantage behind four straight kills by Dupuis. In the final moments, the fourth set was tied at 19, 21, 22 and 23. The Bulldogs would then close out the last two points of the set to claim the match 3-1 and earn a berth in the state championship.
“I’m at a loss for words,” LHS coach Susan Henry-Wilson said after Tuesday’s win. “It’s overwhelming.”
Luray’s volleyball team advanced to the state tournament in 2012, 2013 and 2014. They played in the state championship twice, but finished as state-runner up in 2012 and 2013. Now, the Bulldogs (11-3) will get another shot at a state title against either Gate City (Region D champion) or Giles County (Region C champion) on either Friday or Saturday. Luray will play for the state title on the home court of the other 2A semifinal winner, which was predetermined by the Virginia High School League. The Region C/D semifinal winner also hosted the basketball state championship.
“Gate City is good on defense. We expect them to play well…if that’s who we play,” Coach Henry-Wilson said. “We will have a tough opponent no matter who we play. We’re gonna get to practice and work on consistently keeping that momentum during the game.”
Volleyball, like many sports, is certainly a game of momentum swings. Right now, momentum continues to build behind the Bulldogs — and they will need every bit of that momentum.
Gate City has only lost one volleyball game this season, a 3-2 defeat at Abingdon on March 22. Among their wins, the Blue Devils have claimed 13 matches this season in three consecutive sets. Giles County has only lost three matches this spring season, twice to Glenvar and once to Floyd. The Spartans rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Glenvar in the last three sets to claim the Region 2C title.
The time, date and site of Virginia’s 2A volleyball championship should be announced on Wednesday or Thursday.
Luray wins Region 2B championship
Bulldogs advance to Region 2B volleyball championship this Thursday against Clarke
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