The volleyball head coaching position at Grayson County High School has experienced a massive turnover in the last decades.
Thanks to the return of a previous head coach, the Blue Devils are in the midst of a major turnaround.
Grayson has employed seven head coaches since Charles Campbell ended a 10-season stint in 2007, riding off into the sunset with 178 victories, seven Mountain Empire District regular-season titles, one Group A semifinal appearance and one Timesland coach of the year award.
After an 11-year absence, Campbell is back and Grayson County is reaping the benefits.
The Blue Devils, who finished 7-15 in 2018 after a 1-19 season the previous year, are 13-1 so far in 2019.
On Thursday, Grayson County has a chance to avenge its only setback when the Blue Devils welcome perennial Region 1C powerhouse Auburn.
Campbell’s wife, Jill, has served as his longtime assistant coach. Jill Campbell was teaching in Galax for the previous three years, but when she returned to Grayson County, the door opened.
The Campbells run all three programs at Grayson — varsity, JV and middle school.
“My wife and I wanted to get on the same schedule,” Campbell said. “She was on a different schedule last year. When she came back here to teach, we decided we might want to do it again.”
Campbell’s hiring was approved just as Grayson County’s 2018-19 school year ended.
“I started open gyms right after that, trying to grind it out,” he said. “We opened the gym up almost every day this summer except for on dead [period] week.
“Most of them came religiously, and we were able to work really hard and get where we could compete.”
Other than its 25-14, 25-17, 25-22 loss to Auburn on Sept. 24, the Blue Devils have successfully met all challenges, including Tuesday night’s five-set MED victory over Galax.
Seniors Jacie Bennett (207 kills, 33 blocks, 68 digs, 18 aces); Chelsea Wilson (228 assists, 93 digs, 21 kills) and Hylea Underwood (58 digs, 17 aces) lead Grayson along with junior Kristen Brown (187 assists, 83 digs, 25 aces) and sophomore Malorie Reeves (131 kills, 72 digs, 12 aces).
“Usually when you come in and take over a new program you’ve got a little trouble, but these guys, they’ve taken to the hard work and the effort. All of them taken to the effort we need.”
Grayson is in its first year in Class 1, which is no picnic.
Auburn stands 18-2 under in the first year of its own coaching return, as Sherry Millirons is back after leading the Eagles to three consecutive VHSL championships and 387 wins during her heyday.
Galax and George Wythe are solid Class 1 programs, while defending state champion PH-Glade Spring lurks just down the road.
“The district here is tough,” said Campbell, who officiated matches for the Appalachian Officials Association the previous two years. “Auburn’s tough. They play year round and they’ve got that tradition.
“We’ve got to build that back here. Hopefully, we can keep on track.”
T of C at PH features unbeatens Botetourt, Giles
Lord Botetourt will put a 39-match win streak on the line Saturday as the Cavaliers headline the 10-team Tournament of Champions volleyball event at Patrick Henry High School.
Botetourt has a 77-1 overall record in the last three seasons with back-to-back VHSL Class 3 championships. The Cavaliers’ only loss during the run was 2-1 to Class 6 opponent Frank Cox of Virginia Beach in September 2018.
Timesland’s only other unbeaten team in 2019 — Giles (11-0) — also is in the field along with River Ridge District leader Blacksburg (12-2), Valley District leader Rockbridge County (16-1), defending Class 2 state champ Radford (7-3), host Patrick Henry (11-5) and Cave Spring.
E.C. Glass, Liberty Christian and Tunstall round out the field, which does not include Hidden Valley this year or any teams from outside the state.
The format is for two five-team pools with the winners of each facing off for the title at 4 p.m.
Blacksburg, Rockbridge County and Giles are in the opposite pool from Lord Botetourt.
Titans golfer Withers goes bi-coastal
Hidden Valley sophomore Harrison Withers played golf two weeks ago in Pebble Beach, California.
Tuesday, he will represent the Titans in the VHSL Class 3 state championship in Williamsburg.
Withers took part in the pro-junior portion of PURE Insurance PGA event, teaming with PGA pro Tommy Tolles to place 16th out of 78 teams.
Two highlights for Withers were playing Spyglass Hill on his 16th birthday and carding an eagle at Pebble Beach in the third round.
He returned by plane to Roanoke after midnight Sept. 30, then joined Hidden Valley’s team for the Region 3D tournament in Bristol, Tennessee, where he earned an individual spot in the upcoming state tournament at Williamsburg National Golf Club.
Oak Hill playing hoops exhibitions in Floyd, Saltville
Perennial national high school basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy will play in exhibition games next week in Floyd and Saltville.
The Warriors will face Massanutten Military Academy — now coached by former Salem High and Roanoke College standout Curtis Peery — at Floyd County High School at 7 p.m. Monday.
Oak Hill then will line up against Bluefield College — coached by ex-Salem and University of Virginia star Richard Morgan — at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Northwood High School.