BLACKSBURG — Twelve months later, Blacksburg has a chance to avenge a crushing loss in the Class 4 state volleyball semifinals.
But the Bruins struggled Saturday afternoon to earn that second opportunity.
Blacksburg was taken to the limit before holding off a strong effort from James Wood to take a five-set win in a Class 4 state quarterfinal at Blacksburg High School.
The scores were 26-24, 19-25, 25-16, 18-25 and 15-10.
It set up a rematch with Loudoun County at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the state semifinals. The Northern Virginia power, which has won seven state championships in a row, knocked off Blacksburg in five games last season in the state semis, denying the Bruins a chance to play for the school’s first state volleyball title.
“I’m really excited to get to play them for a third straight year,” Blacksburg senior Lydia Peton said of Loudoun County. “To get another chance at them my senior year is a great opportunity for us.”
For stretches on Saturday it was questionable whether the Bruins would get another shot at the defending state champs, as they split the opening two games with James Woods .
In the third game, Blacksburg (25-4) jumped out to a 14-4 lead and never looked back cruising to a 25-16 win, but the Colonels quickly responded, opening the fourth game winning the first six points. The Bruins eventually tied things at 16-16, but James Wood won nine of the last 11 points in the fourth to bring the match to a decisive fifth set.
The message between sets for the Blacksburg squad was a simple one.
“We just said that we have to play Blacksburg volleyball and play for the seniors,” junior setter Claire Jenkins said.
The Bruins never trailed in the fifth game, but the Colonels (24-5) were able to tie things up as late as 9-9 before Blacksburg took six of the last seven points of the match.
Jenkins finished things up on match point as James Wood was unable to return her successful serve to seal the win.
“I knew I would end up serving the last ball. I just had to stay calm,” Jenkins said. “I took a deep breath and knew I was going for an ace.”
Blacksburg will host Loudoun County on Tuesday at 6 p.m.