MARION – Buffalo Gap has gotten off to slow starts in past matches and has, more often than not, turned it around.
However, the Bison picked the wrong team to do that against in their Group 2A state semifinal.
Marion Senior took advantage with a strong first set, then held off Gap for a three-set sweep Tuesday.
The Lady Hurricanes, earned a return trip to the state final with the 25-9, 25-16, 25-22 win and will take on Robert E. Lee in the final on Saturday at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
The Bison had some trouble getting its game going in the first set and the Lady Canes jumped on that, moving out to a quick lead. Led by front-line players Callee Cox and Caeley Glisan, and libero Abbie Jennings’ stellar play on the back line, Marion got rolling quickly to take the first set 25-9.
“I think we were still on the bus,” Gap coach Elizabeth Ashby said. “We had trouble with our passing and we couldn’t get the offense going to point where we could get Emily Hanger involved. When we did, we played better.”
The Bison got back in it at the start of the second set, getting out to an 8-2 lead. But Marion bounced right back, going on a 9-2 run to take an 11-0 lead, then increasing it to 18-13.
There was a worried look on some of the Gap players’ faces, but that look turned into one of determination as the Bison started playing better, despite losing set two 25-16.
“I think they realized that they had to play better,” Ashby said. “No one likes to lose, especially at this level. They just decide to dig in and prove their point, that they deserved to be here. They’ve done that a lot this season, but, unfortunately, we didn’t do it soon enough tonight.”
Led by Hanger, who finished with 11 kills and five blocks, and Camille Ashby’s 20 assists and 10 digs, the Bison played their best in the third set. Down 14-9, Gap went on a 9-4 run to tie the set at 18-18 and from there, it was back and forth, with the score at 21-21.
“I told my girls that [the Bison] weren’t here by sheer luck,” Marion coach Amanda Hanshew said. “I told them that they worked hard to get here and that they weren’t going to give up. We had to step up our intensity to stay ahead of them.”
The Lady Canes did step up, taking four of the last five points to clinch the set and the match.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the determination Ashby saw on her players’ faces told her all she needed to know about them
“This team hasn’t given up all year and I didn’t think they did that tonight,” Ashby said. “I think we just got outplayed.”