BY ANTHONY STEVENS
Bristol Herald Courier
LEBANON, Va. – The defending Virginia High School League Group A state volleyball champions ended the regular season on a high note.
Gate City swept Lebanon 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-16) at Long Gymnasium in a match that lasted less than an hour on Thursday night. It was the sixth win in a row for the Blue Devils, whose only loss this season was in five games to Sullivan Central on Sept. 28.
“I think a lot of people have underestimated this team,” said Gate City coach Amy Reed. “I don’t think this team has shown everything they have. They haven’t been challenged enough.”
Only the matches with Sullivan Central and J.I. Burton have gone more than three games this season. Gate City finished the regular season with a 17-1 overall record and a perfect 8-0 in the Clinch Mountain District. The Blue Devils have now won 12 consecutive district volleyball titles, dating back to 1999.
“The regular season is over with and the teams are going to be tougher and stronger,” Reed said. “We’re all playing for the same thing – to win so we can keep climbing the ladder.”
Against Lebanon, there was a big offensive output from the Blue Devil front line. Freshman Erica Fugate posted a match-high 11 kills, Lindsey Burke recorded nine kills and Santana
Bishop and Ashton Dougherty totaled eight kills each.
“We’ve grown, but we still have a long way to go,” said Burke, a captain and one of only two seniors on the squad. “I’m very happy with this season considering we had six seniors last year. We had a lot of young people come up and they’ve done a good job.”
The first set was tied six times, the final time at 11-11. Lebanon had an attack error, when a kill attempt went into the net. That brought Gate City’s Callie Sloop to the service line and she reeled off five consecutive points. The Blue Devils never trailed again.
Lebanon never led in the second set, although it was tied three times early. Burke served five straight points, all aces, and Gate City rolled to the win.
“The first game we tried a little too hard, we wanted to make some things happen,” said Reed. “The second and third games we were back to normal and took care of the game. The main thing is we came out with a win and you have to secure those things.”
Hanna Frye, Caitlin Helton, and Kendall Helbert played well for the Pioneers. Lebanon (8-12, 2-6) hosts Virginia High in the opening round of the Clinch Mountain District tournament on Monday.
Gate City will play the Lebanon-Virginia High winner in the semifinals on Wednesday. John Battle will face Lee High in the other contest, with both matches held at Gate City. The finals will also be at Gate City on Thursday.