The day after their teams wrangled in the Cedar Run District volleyball championship, Osbourn Park Coach Kate Southcott exchanged e-mails with Stonewall Coach Jessica Hruska, one of which said something along the lines of, hey, hope to see you in the region final.
Neither could have realized just how that would transpire, but the teams did indeed meet in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region championship last night [see Sports, Section E] to earn automatic state tournament berths.
Osbourn Park (20-4) advanced to the region final with 3-0 wins over Hylton and Colonial Forge. Stonewall (18-5) got a second chance when its 3-1 quarterfinal loss was overturned because Forest Park had inadvertently used an academically ineligible player. The Raiders then won, 3-0, in a semifinal at E.C. Glass in Lynchburg on Thursday night.
Last night's winner will host Central Region runner-up Douglas Freeman (20-5) in a state quarterfinal Tuesday. Last night's loser will travel to Central Region champion Mills Godwin (23-2). Osbourn Park was swept by both teams Oct. 16.
Even though Stonewall reached the region final by unusual means, Hruska thought her team showed that it belonged by traveling four hours and beating E.C. Glass, 25-22, 25-14, 25-23.
"To go down there to Lynchburg and win in three I think not only proved to other people, but to themselves, that they deserved to be there," said Hruska, whose team won the Cedar Run district championship after losing twice to OP during the regular season. "The way they got there is not a normal way, I guess, but just to be able to go down there and win in three shows them that, yes, they are good enough to be where we are now."
Senior Monique Barbour had 10 kills and three blocks. Senior Kendra Sloan added five kills and senior Heather Page four. Senior Katie Speaks had 17 assists, and sister Holly, a junior, had three aces.
While it was exhilarating to learn that the quarterfinal loss to Forest Park had been overturned, it also meant the Raiders had only one day to re-energize themselves for another match, after believing their season -- and the careers of 10 seniors -- was over.
"Volleyball is a lot mental," said Hruska, whose team has won nine straight including the forfeit. "So they had it in their heads that they were done, so then you have to get driven back up to be able to play again in order to go on.
"It would have been rough to say, 'Okay, you're back in it,' and go down there and lose, and say, 'Okay, you're really out now.' That would have been a hard blow."
Osbourn Park beat Colonial Forge, 25-20, 25-17, 25-23 in Thursday's other region semifinal.
"We are so excited," Yellow Jackets senior Adora Luster said. "We've played great and we keep on improving, and the game [Thursday night] was just one of those improvements."
And playing such top-notch competition as Godwin and Freeman has been part of that process.
"They showed us what we really needed to practice," Luster said.