ABINGDON, Va. - In the treacherous world of Roanoke Valley volleyball, a team can lose to just one Virginia High School League opponent all season and still end up just third best in its own region.
“Yeah,” said eighth-year Abingdon coach Rachel Harding Kopp. “I know.”
Nonetheless, Abingdon is a postseason threat, and Tuesday the homestanding Falcons opened the playoffs convincingly with a 25-16, 25-11, 25-12 sweep of No.6 Magna Vista in quarterfinal play of the Region 3D tournament.
Now the third-seeded Falcons (25-3) get second-seeded Hidden Valley, state champion in 2016 and 2013 as well as state runner-up in 2015, 2012 and 2008. The match will be played at 6 o’clock at Hidden Valley on Thursday night.
Awaiting that semifinal winner in the regional title game could well be unbeaten Lord Botetourt, the 2017 and 2018 Class 3 state champion.
Fortunately for Abingdon and other Region 3D schools, Cave Spring of Salem (state champion five times since the turn of the century) is down these days.
“It’s a tough region for sure,” reiterated Kopp, whose Falcons have lost to Tennessee High and South Warren (Kentucky) this fall, in addition to Botetourt.
“Our region has sent someone to the state final nearly every year the last little while, which is encouraging to us because that means, you know, that we’re right on the cusp and we’re just a win or two away from being there ourselves.”
First, the Falcons had to deal with improved Magna Vista, which made the three-hour drive from Henry County. No problem.
The youthful Warriors (14-8) of third-year coach Jessica France were in the midst of their best season in a while, but were no match for the Falcons.
“We won four games my first year and six last year, so to be the No.6 seed in this region is big for our program,” France said. “And I don’t want this result to dim what these girls were able to accomplish this season.
“But, Abingdon is a really a good team that I enjoyed watching play. They are scrappy and have great ball control. They just don’t make mistakes.”
And the Falcons have Katie Harless, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter who tied an Abingdon single-season record last night with a dozen kills, giving her 315 for the season and equaling the mark set in 2010 by Taylor Leland.
Harless will play next year at King University.
“Katie is super athletic and she jumps well and she plays really smart, yet she’s one of our hardest workers, too,” said Kopp, who also played at Abingdon and at King. “She’s very versatile. She started her career as a setter and she’s one of the few kids with almost 700 assists and 700 kills in her career.
“And she really wants to win.”
Emme Thompson provided excellent support to Harless with 31 assists and four aces. Morgan Blevins had seven kills and nine digs for Abingdon, while teammate Lacie Bertke produced nine digs.