Warhill’s season ended in tough fashion as the Lions were swept by Grafton Tuesday night in the Class 4 girls volleyball state semifinals.
Grafton (27-1) advanced to its second consecutive state championship match Friday afternoon at William and Mary’s Kaplan Arena against perennial champion Loudoun County. New Kent ended the season with a 23-4 record.
The Lions’ only losses this season came at the hands of the Clippers, said Warhill coach Greg Koon.
The first set stayed close as both sides scrambled to keep possessions alive.
Warhill had a four-point lead about halfway through the opening set, but Grafton rallied to take the lead.
Grafton’s Olivia Smalls registered several kills as the Clippers took the opening set 25-19.
The second set was a familiar story as Warhill senior Chloe Wilmouth hustled around the court, juniors Hailey Hopkins and Gracie Dry came up with spikes and blocks and senior Carrie Vanleliveld set up her teammates on their spike attempts.
Warhill took the lead about a third of the way through the set, but Grafton again rallied to win 25-18.
After the second set, the Warhill bleachers quieted down and the Grafton students and parents were loud and enthusiastic with chants of “Go Big Red! Go! Big! Red!”
With Grafton’s team feeding off the crowd’s energy, they set out to close the third set as Warhill came up empty on key spike opportunities.
Wilmouth, who dove for the ball so many times that she appeared to have injured her shoulder, played on.
At one point, Wilmouth took a knee to the head by a teammate while attempting to save the ball. She walked it off and told Koon that she was fine.
The match ended as Wilmouth sprinted for a save, but couldn’t make it. Grafton won the third set 25-15 to clinch the sweep and a spot in the state championship match.
After the game, Koon said he was disappointed.
“I don’t know whether it was nerves or what, but it was just another game,” Koon said. “We had a game plan and they didn’t follow it.”
However, he was more optimistic as he looked back on the season.
“Overall I think the season was fantastic, we had four losses to one team,” Koon said. “That says a lot about Grafton to be able to beat the same team four times. Most of the matches were pretty tight. My hat’s off to Grafton.”
Grafton coach Karissa Cumberbatch was amazed by what her team accomplished: four straight wins against a tough opponent.
“We stepped up some things in practice and made things a little more competitive, but really I think it was the will to win,” said Cumberbatch. “We knew it’s hard to beat a good team four times. It just came down to wanting to win I think.”
“It’s the best season I’ve ever had here. I couldn’t ask to do it with a better group of kids. They’re like family for me.”
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.