LEBANON, Va. - The Trojans are playing their best volleyball at the right time of year. John Battle extended its season with a thrilling five-set victory over Lebanon in the Region 2D quarterfinals. The Trojans took a 28-26, 25-20 12-25, 24-26, 15-7 nailbiter at Charles C. Long Gymnasium.
“We came into this so prepared and ready to fight,” John Battle coach Brittni Haderer said. “Everyone knows it’s do or die, so you either have to fight or fold. That’s been our motto recently…are we going to fight or are we going to fold? Tonight my girls truly brought it.”
The first set was up for grabs, with Lebanon leading at 23-20 and 24-22 but the Trojans never let up and squeezed out a win. The second set was easier with John Battle leading most of the way.
Lebanon showed some fight too. Down 2-0 they completely dominated the third set. With the Trojans up 24-23 in the fourth, the Pioneers took the final three points to even the match.
“This is awesome,” said Battle hitter Emma Harmon. “We thought after that fourth set, ‘oh no.’ Our momentum was down. Then we really banded together in the fifth set.”
It worked, John Battle then led from start to finish in the fifth. Harmon and freshman Molly Little were strong up front as they put it in the win column.
“Our intensity really increased and we began to focus on where we were hitting the ball,” Harmon said. “Our blocks helped a lot, we began to get touches on the ball. Our defense was really zoned in.”
Harmon was a terror all over the floor with 15 kills, 13 digs and four blocks. Little added 10 kills with several coming in the decisive fifth, and Kelsey Blaylock contributed nine kills. Bethany Smith led the defense with 45 digs and Keelie Pippin directed the offense with 42 assists.
“We had to learn to trust in each other, love each other, play together forever,” remarked Haderer. “We showed a relentless attitude out there on the court.”
Kara Long (24 kills, 27 digs) and Averie Price (21 kills, 20 digs) paced the Pioneers. Jaylee Stanley delivered 40 assists and also led the back row with 30 digs.
“It was a tough match again, this time of year they are all like that,” said Lebanon coach Dennis Price. “We just got off to a slow start in the fifth, we could never get any offense generated. It’s just a tough loss for the whole team, especially when you lose in the fifth. Our effort and attitude, giving everything they had showed tonight.”
The second consecutive 20-win season ended for Lebanon (20-10). John Battle (12-14) will advance to face Union at Virginia High on Saturday in the semifinals.