EWING, Va. – Thomas Walker not only triumphed over Chilhowie on Tuesday night, but a protégé was victorious against one of her mentors.
Second-year TW boss Kristen “KiKi” Murphy Parker guided her Pioneers to a 19-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-13 win over her alma mater and former coach in the opening round of the VHSL Region 1D volleyball tournament.
A 2014 graduate of Chilhowie, Parker was a multi-sport standout for the Warriors and her volleyball coach at the Smyth County school was Laura Robinson. Robinson is still at the helm of Chilhowie’s program and while the teams had scrimmaged prior to the season, the first real matchup between Parker and Robinson occurred Tuesday with the season on the line in a regional tourney contest.
“I was trying to impress Coach Robinson all through high school and I felt like I was trying to do that tonight to show her that I learned a lot from her,” Parker said. “She taught me a lot. I hate they lost, but it was good to be able to show her that I’m doing something.”
Robinson certainly noticed the quality team Parker put on the court.
“She’s done an amazing job over here,” Robinson said. “She’s really got the program going and I am proud of her for that. I love KiKi. I loved coaching her and I knew she was going to do a good job.”
How pumped was Parker?
“She wanted it tonight,” said Thomas Walker junior Talyn Dibrell. “She wanted us to come out fired up. We didn’t at first, but we came back and got her the win.”
It was hard for anybody in the gym on Tuesday night to not be impressed with the way Dibrell (15 kills, two blocks) and sophomore Lakin Burke (13 kills) dominated at times for Thomas Walker.
“They’re killers to have on the front row,” Parker said. “Whether it’s killing or blocking, we’re lucky to have them.”
Chilhowie was not so lucky as Thomas Walker (16-7) controlled the match after a first-game setback.
Lindsey Walker (13 digs), Caitlin Pierce (10 kills, six digs) and Josie Sheets (21 assists, five kills) were the stat leaders for the Warriors.
“We came out on fire and in the second game we played with ‘em,” Robinson said. “We have gotten dependent on our blockers lately and they’ve been doing a really good job. Tonight, they just couldn’t quite get their hands on it enough. Thomas Walker has a good team and have some great hitters.”
Bella Schwartz (28 assists, seven digs), Madison Mayes (eight kills, three aces) and Autumn Collinsworth (five kills) also made key contributions for TW, which plays at Black Diamond District regular-season champion Grundy on Thursday in a quarterfinal match.
Thomas Walker beat Council in the opening round of last year’s Region 1D tournament, but lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion Patrick Henry.
The Pioneers are hoping to avoid elimination on Thursday.
“We’re going to get prepared at practice on Wednesday, make that long trip on Thursday and hopefully, take the next step for our program,” Parker said.