Buffalo Gap didn’t make it easy on itself Saturday night. By losing to Robert E. Lee in the 2A East volleyball finals, the Bison begin their state tournament on the road, a long way from home. Gap will travel to Marion, almost three hours south of Staunton, Tuesday for the 2A state semifinals.
And it’s not just the travel that will be an issue. Buffalo Gap has to play Marion Senior, a team that reached the state finals last year only to lose in five to Goochland. Of course, Gap has already disposed to Goochland in this year’s postseason, so Tuesday night it will try to take care of the other finalist from a year ago.
Callee Cox is Marion’s middle hitter. The senior, who was named first team all-state last year, has 263 kills and 40 blocks this season. Another middle hitter, junior Caeley Glisan, has 265 kills and 96 blocks, while senior outside hitter Margaret Wagner, second team all-state last season, has 182 kills and 225 digs for the Scarlet Hurricanes. Wagner also has 43 aces. And junior Abbie Jennings, Marion’s libero, has 307 digs this season.
Marion coach Amanda Hanshew said last year’s loss to Goochland was especially difficult because her team had a two-set lead and lost the final three sets in the finals.
“It was very tough,” said Hanshew. “Almost immediately after the loss my underclassmen were coming up to me saying, ‘What can we do? How can we get back to this place?'”
The loss could have had a negative effect on a team, but Hanshew saw the exact opposite. Now, they are back in the state tournament — minus three seniors who played key roles last year, including two starters — and want to finish what they couldn’t last year.
“They want to get back and get another shot at it,” Hanshew said.
Meanwhile, Lee High gets to play at home Tuesday after beating Buffalo Gap Saturday. The Lee Ladies will host Giles (20-4), which was swept by Marion in the 2A West championship.
Alyson Pennington, a junior setter, has 362 assists for the Spartans, while sophomore outside hitter Jocelyn Midkiff leads the team with 243 kills. Junior middle Mattie Vangelos has 96 kills this season.
Giles hasn’t been to the state tournament since 2012. Coach Mandy Havens wasn’t the head coach that year and none of her current players were part of that team. Havens, though, isn’t concerned that her team won’t be able to handle the pressure.
“They are a good, well-composed team,” Havens said. “They are all, besides being good athletes, they are good people. They work hard to be emotionally sound. That’s something that we focus on and concentrate on a lot.”
Last season Giles lost in the conference semifinals, but this year the Spartans have been improving throughout the season. That’s exactly what Havens had hoped for from her team.
“A good athlete is never happy with where they are,” said Havens. “We’re always striving to do better.”
Both matches begin at 7 p.m. The winners will meet for the 2A state championship Saturday in Richmond.