Titans Oust TA
Knights Lose In 4 Sets
Posted: November 14, 2012
ROANOKE – Hidden Valley High School’s volleyball team sat in its huddle quietly after its first set in the Group AA state quarterfinals, contemplating the shocking fact that it had actually just lost a set.
Perhaps even more jarring, the Titans – aptly named both because of their height and their powerhouse reputation in volleyball – were down a set to a bunch of comparative dwarfs from Turner Ashby.
“Did that just happen?” senior Caroline Boone thought.
It turned out to be just a hiccup.
The rest of the match turned into an expected rout, as Hidden Valley pulled away 3-1 (25-27, 25-17, 25-13, 25-9), winning the next three sets with comparative ease to advance to its fifth state semifinal in six years. But as the Knights’ season came to a close, they carried a sense of pride at becoming just the second team to take a set off the Titans in ten matches.
“Nobody expected us to even take a game tonight I don’t think,” TA coach Gina Troyer said. “Except the people from Rockingham County.”
In looking at the two teams before the match, it was hard to picture how the Knights (22-5) could handle the Titans’ firepower. Hidden Valley (28-4) had three net players who stood at least 6 feet tall; TA’s second-best attacker, senior Miriam Karunakaran, measures just 5-foot-3.
But the Knights, who got lost on the way to HVHS and arrived just 30 minutes before the opening serve, were fearless. They swarmed defensively and appeared to find a weapon by pushing the ball over the Titans into empty voids rather than trying to go through a swarm of gangly arms.
When senior Brittany Evans’ block traveled lazily over the net before touching down on the far sideline to give TA the first set – “please stay in, we need this,” she thought as the ball caromed off her hands – teammates hugged Evans like she had just won them the match.
“Nobody except our team, our parents, our fans, and our TA family believed that we would win this game,” senior middle hitter Abby Cleaver said. “And so it was fun to be the underdog and come out and play like that.”
But from there, the holes in Hidden Valley’s defense closed, and the Titans’ beastly attack awoke from a slumber.
With Boone’s 16 kills leading the way, HVHS led nearly the entire rest of the match. TA hung around within six points for most of the second set and led briefly to start the third, but it then dropped 48 of the final 66 points as the Titans went into cruise control.
Cleaver, who probably had some of the cleverest 10 kills of her career, said she felt the energy level drop “dramatically” for her Knights; but when asked why, she responded, “I couldn’t tell you.”
Troyer, gave it a shot.
“We’re a very emotional team – we celebrate every single point, and every time something goes our way, we lose our mind,” she said. “That’s who we are, and that’s how we’ve been all year long. I’m sure that wears on you after a while, and that takes some of your energy away.”
Still, it was a step forward for the Knights, who got 27 digs from junior libero Marissa Collier and 23 assists from senior setter Emily Shickel. Tuesday marked the third time in five years they were beat in states by Hidden Valley, which has made every state tournament since 2000. In 2008 and 2010, the Titans crushed the Knights in three breezy sets.
Of course, there were a few breezy ones in Tuesday’s matchup, too, and TA certainly wishes it could play under the spotlight of the Siegel Center in Richmond on Friday. (Instead, Hidden Valley will take on Jamestown.)
But this time around, the Knights – unlike most other teams in these playoffs – at least left an impression.
“I told Gina that they’re one of the best defensive teams we’ve played,” HVHS coach Carla Poff said. “They gave us a run for our money. They definitely came to play.”