EMORY, Va. – One year ago, Avery Maiden was in attendance as the Patrick Henry Rebels won their first state volleyball championship in program history at Northside High School in Roanoke.
Maiden played volleyball at Abingdon’s Cornerstone Christian Academy last season while being home-schooled. The freshman now has a front row seat for the Rebels as the starting setter.
“I had a lot of fun supporting the team at state, but I had no idea how much things would change in a year,” Maiden said.
With Maiden orchestrating a balanced attack Wednesday, PH moved closer to another Class 1 state tournament with a 25-11, 25-8, 25-10 victory over the Council Cobras in the quarterfinals of the Region 1D tournament.
After practicing with some of the PH players last spring, Maiden decided to transfer over the summer.
“We only played a short season at Cornerstone, so it was a big switch coming to the high school team. But all the players here accepted me right away,” Maiden said.
Maiden’s initial goal was simple.
“I thought I might be on the junior varsity team and have a chance to work my way up,” Maiden said.
The situation took a sudden turn in early October when regular setter Logan Newberry was sidelined by a broken ankle
“Avery got thrown in the fire, and she’s done a great job,” PH coach Pam Ratliff Newberry said
While the PH coaching staff prefers to focus on the team aspect and not distribute individual stats after matches, Maiden was prolific as usual Wednesday as the Rebels rolled to a 7-0 lead in the first set.
The biggest fan for Maiden was Logan Newberry.
“Logan is like personal assistant on the bench,” Maiden said. “She’s always talking to me and giving me help.”
The biggest helping hand for Maiden on Wednesday came from her older sister, Ella.
“Winning the state last season was very special, and we’ve all put everything into high gear to get back to the level again. It’s an awesome journey,” Ella said.
Former PH multi-sport standout, Billie Hart Maiden, is the mother of Ella and Avery.
“Mom is like our coach at home,” Ella said. “She’s always getting us to the gym and telling us what we need to improve on.”
Executing a precise technique called the quick set where the hitter goes airborne just as the ball goes up from the setter, the Maiden sisters kept the Cobras on their heels.
“We just started doing that this year, but we’ve been able to click through lots of practice,” Avery said. “Ella always makes my sets look good.”
Senior Abigail Belcher joined Ella Maiden on the PH hit parade.
“Patrick Henry has an awesome team with some really strong hitters, and we knew that coming in,” Council coach Tonya Thompson said. “I told our girls to just play their best and have fun.”
Council chopped its deficit to 20-9 in the first set before Ella Maiden boomed a winner down the line. After falling behind 12-1 in set two, the Cobras closed within 17-7 before PH pulled way.
The Cobras were led by Alli Austin (four digs, three service points), Abby Stevens (eight digs) and Lyrissa Duty with five service points.
“Austin and Stevens are usually on fire with their kills, but tonight we had trouble just getting to the ball,” Thompson said.
With 10 wins this season, the Cobras set a new standard for the eight-year coaching term of Thompson.
Wednesday’s win continued the three-year reign of domination for Coach Newberry. After posting records of 18-10 and 23-2 the past two seasons, PH is now 28-1 with the lone loss coming to Auburn.
“I came into a great program, and we’ve been able to build it up with support from lots of people,” said Newberry, who relies on five seniors. “The atmosphere here is just unbelievable, and the girls play with heart.”
Coach Newberry has added to that winning culture by operating the Southwest Virginia Elite club volleyball team the past three years. The club schedule begins play right after high school volleyball season ends and continues through late March.
In the case of the 5-foot-10 Ella Maiden, the extra practice had paid serious dividends.
“Hard work and good competition always helps,” Ella said. “It’s nice having a team like this which has so many good defensive players, offensive players and setters.”
Avery Maiden said she’s eager to experience the state tournament from a new perspective
“I was nervous at the beginning of the season in following the footsteps of my mom and older sister in such a strong program, but now it feels like I’ve played with these girls all my life,” Avery said.
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