GRUNDY, Va. – It was a night of firsts for Thomas Walker and it didn’t lose sight of its goal, even after losing the first set.
The Pioneers also overcame a 2-1 deficit and rallied for a 3-2 victory over Grundy in the Region 1D volleyball quarterfinals Thursday night.
Thomas Walker advanced to its first regional semifinal in volleyball with a 20-25, 25-18, 24-26, 25-22, 15-13 win behind inspired play across the board, but especially at the net, where Talyn Dibrell notched 17 kills and five blocks and Lakin Burke, who added 14 and three, including three huge kills in the final set.
“The fifth set is always very nerve wracking,” Burke said. “It’s just who wants it more and I think that we battled hard as a team.”
“We have Talyn and Lakin who lead us at the net when one’s not on the front row, the other’s on the front row,” added Thomas Walker coach Kristen Murphy Parker. “When they’re on, they’re on. Tonight, they were on.
“We gave away some points that we shouldn’t have, but they really kept us in it.”
Grundy (14-9) rallied at the end of a first set that featured eight ties. The Pioneers (17-6) led much of set number three before three well-placed kills by freshman Jessi Looney, one by Kennedi Plymal and a block at the end by Emma Deel gave the Golden Wave a 25-22 win and a 2-1 edge.
“We left everything out on the court tonight,” Grundy coach Vickie McComas said. “That was my prayer before the game, to just let them play their very best and leave it all out on the court and that’s what they did.
“We played as good as we can play, we really did. Thomas Walker is a very good team, with the most size that we’ve seen all season. Their blocking and hitting are very good, but we hung in there and we played hard with them and every set was close.”
A senior, Plymal’s valiant efforts gave her club 20 kills and 15 digs. Senior Skylar Stiltner supplied 20 digs.
Alexa Fiser had 30 assists, Looney finished with 15 kills, 17 digs and 11 service points and Deel totaled eight blocks.
Bella Schwartz did most of the setting for the Pioneers and had a whopping 40 assists. Madison Mayes (10 kills, 11 digs), Autumn Collinsworth (seven kills), Chantel Sloce (11 digs), Abby Bullins (four kills, three blocks) and Kaylee Livesay (five aces) all made big plays of one sort or another for Thomas Walker.
“We all hustle as a team and that’s what makes it possible for us to win games,” said Burke, who made several huge plays to help the Pioneers maintain the lead in set four. “They’re amazing and I love each and every one of them.”
It’s on to another challenge for a young team that has just three seniors on the roster.
“This is the first time our program’s ever been to the regional semifinals, so I’m glad that we pushed through that,” added Parker. “It’s a big deal tonight for them. Now we’re pushing on to the next one.”
Thomas Walker meets Holston on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the semifinals at Eastside High School in Coeburn.