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Region I Volleyball Semifinals: Cougars’ late surge is not enough







Whenever it appeared the Courtland High School volleyball team was set to accept defeat in its Region I semifinal against New Kent Thursday night, the Cougars bounced back.

They fell behind by seven points in the second game before rallying to win. They trailed by six in game No. 4 before another triumphant comeback.

However, the Cougars ran out of miracles in the fifth game. They fell behind by five points, rallied to tie the game at 11, but ultimately the Trojans escaped for a hard-fought 3–2 victory (25–20, 23–25, 25–18, 26–28, 15–12) on Courtland’s home court.

“It’s tough to play from behind all the time, and we did every set,” Cougars head coach Bob Hott said. “We managed to claw our way back into it the second and fourth. But I think it’s just one of those things that the laws of probability are going to kick in. The fifth set was it. We just got behind and couldn’t close the gap.”

The Trojans (22–6) earned a bid to the Group AA state tournament with the victory. They’ll visit Jamestown Saturday for the regional championship game.

Courtland (21–6) saw its season come to an end after earning Battlefield District regular-season and tournament titles.

Many of the Cougars were in tears after the setback as their attempt to achieve the school’s first state tournament appearance since 2000 fell just short.

“It’s definitely way harder than I expected it to be,” senior Brooke Cooper said of seeing the season and her high school career come to an end. “But it was awesome going out like that because we all played our hearts out and we left everything on the court. That was our best game of the season. I hope New Kent goes far.”

The Cougars were paced by junior Anna Gallup with 12 kills, 15 digs and four blocks. Junior libero McKay Richardson delivered 33 digs, while juniors Amanda DePalma (eight kills), Josie Till (12 kills) and Bianca Rumbaugh (42 assists) played strong games, as well.

Hott said because so many juniors contributed for the Cougars, 2013 is a promising campaign.

“The three seniors we lose, they’ll be tough to replace because they provide a lot of leadership,” Hott said. “But we’ve got a good stable of juniors. We just have to find a way to get the leadership to transfer from the current senior class.”

That leadership was on display Thursday as the Cougars continued to battle back. They survived four New Kent match points, including three in the fourth set when they trailed two games to one, but rallied for a 28–26 win.

“They kept attacking the ball,” New Kent coach Cynthia Burnett said of why the Cougars were so tough to put away. “We kind of eased off a little bit, and I thought their defense was really good. They dug up a lot of our hard hits.”

Before the deciding fifth game, the Cougars were a confident bunch.

They jumped up and down in their huddle and screamed “I believe that we will win.”

But they fell behind 11–6 in the fifth game before rallying for the next five points. The Trojans scored four of the next five, however, to earn the win and a sigh of relief.

“Coming out of this, win or lose, I am so proud of my team,” Courtland senior Emily Jordan said. “This is the farthest we’ve gotten in my four years of Courtland volleyball. I’m so proud, I’m speechless.”

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