By Randy Arrington
BERRYVILLE, Oct. 24 — Third-seeded Luray took the No. 2 Eagles of Clarke to a fourth set before falling, 3-1, in a Bull Run District semifinal on Tuesday night. The two teams split during the regular season, with each team winning at home. Clarke (15-7) kept that streak going in the district tournament and now advances to the Bull Run championship to face top-seeded Central (20-1) in Woodstock on Thursday.
The Bulldogs matched up well with the Eagles for Tuesday’s semifinal. Both teams entered the game with an overall record of 14-7, with Clarke just two games ahead in the district standings. Both of their previous meetings proved very competitive and took more than three sets to determine a winner — four at Luray on Sept. 26, and a full five sets at Clarke on Oct. 17. Tuesday’s district semifinal would start the same way.
The opening set would be tied seven times before it reached 20-20. Just prior to that, Luray had fallen behind 15-20 — Clarke’s largest lead — before going on a 5-0 run, the longest run of the set for either team. At that point, the No. 2 and No. 3 district seeds went back-and-forth, battling point-for-point in the race to 25. After a kill by Luray senior Gracie Embry brought the Bulldogs within one at 24-23, the Eagles closed out the final point to claim the first set.
Clarke freshman Grace Gerenski recorded five of her nine kills on the night in the opening set, while Embrey posted four of her six aces.
Clarke jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set, which grew to a 12-4 lead, a 19-10 margin, and finally closed out at 25-14. Despite a couple of kills each by senior Summer Forder and junior Avery Jewell, Luray could not keep pace with the Eagles in the second set and fell behind 2-0 in the match.
The third set would see the momentum swing, as the Bulldogs went from a 2-0 deficit to a 6-2 lead. After the Eagles answered back with their own 4-0 run to tie things up at 6-6, the Bulldogs went on the longest run of the day — 12 straight points to take a commanding 18-6 lead. That run included SEVEN aces served up by Jewell. Clarke clawed their way back in it, but Luray still closed out their only win 25-21.
Clarke came out strong in the fourth set and mounted a 16-3 lead. The Eagles would take the final set 25-13, and claim the match 3-1 to advance to the Bull Run District championship Thursday night in Woodstock.
The Eagles were lead by senior Anna Spencer with 10 kills and three aces, followed by Gerenski with nine kills and sophomore Gracie Brown who had six kills and three aces.
Luray was lead once again by seniors Forder (eight kills) and Embry (four kills, six aces). Jewell added five kills and eight aces. Sophomore Reese Fitton had four kills and one ace.
The Bulldogs (14-8) now await their seeding — likely No. 3 or No. 4 — for the Region 2B volleyball tournament, which starts next week.
For full schedules, rosters and standings — check out the Bull Run District website.