BRISTOL, Va. – Lebanon High School had paid the price in practice and got rewarded on Tuesday night.
The defensive-minded Pioneers posted a 25-23, 25-18, 12-25, 25-20 win over the Virginia High Bearcats and forced a tie atop the Southwest District volleyball standings.
Showcasing tons of hustle and intensity, Lebanon (14-7, 4-1) was able to get it done as those defensive drills that are repeated over and over in practice took hold in the match.
“They blocked very well,” said VHS coach Ashley Johnson. “They did a good job of controlling the net. We had some good touches, but they definitely handled defense very well.”
The Pioneers also handled the anxiety that comes with a high-pressure, high-stakes match.
“We’ve had trouble all year getting over the hump in tight games,” said Lebanon coach Dennis Price. “We’ve frozen up, tightened up and hadn’t got it done, but the girls came through tonight and finished.”
Both teams knew what they were in for.
The Pioneers and Bearcats split a pair of matches in a tournament hosted by VHS in early-September.
Virginia High (16-4, 4-1) had gutted out a 20-25, 27-25, 11-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-12 win over the Pioneers in the first regular-season matchup between the squads last month as Camden Jones slammed down 24 kills.
Jones finished with 19 kills and 22 digs on Tuesday.
“She’s a phenomenal player and one of the best around here,” Price said. “We concentrate on defense every day in practice no matter who we’re playing and she’s such a good hitter. We just worked really hard on defense and trying to get a finger tip or something on the ball to slow it down.”
Lebanon did not suffer from a slow start, never trailing in the first two games.
“Winning the first set is always good, but the second set is always one of the hardest to win. Once we got that, our energy level got high,” said Lebanon standout Averie Price. “It’s a huge win. After the first loss against Virginia High, we wanted to come back and have some intensity and redeem ourselves from the last time we played them.”
After a subpar showing in the third game, Lebanon took care of business in the fourth as Haley Finney had some key serves late in the match.
“I knew I had to get some serves in to help the team,” Finney said. “We were just really prepared.”
Averie Price (21 kills, 14 digs, three blocks), Kara Long (13 kills, nine digs) and Jaylee Stanley (31 assists, 11 digs) led the way for Lebanon.
“We played really well,” Dennis Price said. “It’s early and there are a lot more games to be played. We just want to enjoy this and just move on. We know we’re going to see them again and again.”
Hannah Knight (47 assists, 14 digs), Bre Owens (22 digs) and Caitlin Hampton (12 kills, 10 digs) joined Jones as top performers for the Bearcats.
“[Lebanon] showed up ready to play and I’m not 100 percent sure that our focus was where it needed to be coming into this match and I think that was the big difference between the two of us,” Johnson said. “At this point in the season it’s a good reminder of where we are at. Things are far from over and we’ve still got a tough path in front of us and we can’t take anything for granted.”
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