Daily Press (Sunday)

Bruton drops heartbreak­er

Panthers come up short in fifth set

- By Robert Anderson

SALEM — For a moment, Bruton held the VHSL Class 2 volleyball championsh­ip trophy.

But that was only because Panthers head coach Charlene Daugherty was handed the wrong hardware Saturday in a postmatch ceremony at Salem Civic Center.

She had to give it back. In reality, Bruton came close to claiming its first state title. Very close.

The Panthers won the first two sets and led briefly in the decisive fifth, but the Bay Rivers District team was up against an opponent that refused to surrender.

Appomattox County rallied for a 22-25, 22-25, 25-18, 25-16, 15-13 victory over Bruton, leaving the Panthers one step shy of the championsh­ip.

Taking home the runner-up trophy neverthele­ss was an accomplish­ment for a Bruton team that finished 12-13 in 2022.

“From the beginning of the season, we knew we had it in us to make it this far,” Daugherty said. “These girls totally bought (into) it from day one. We’re a family.”

Bruton (19-7) brought two sets of identical twins — Jolie and Mina Faw and Savannah and Gretchen Davila — and the Panthers took the first two sets despite trailing late in both.

However, Bruton did not have an edge in motivation. Appomattox County (25-3) also was seeking a first state title in its initial appearance in the final.

The Raiders found a way around the dynamic blocking of the Faw sisters at the net, spreading the wealth among their hitters.

Aubrey Fulcher (42 assists, 11 digs, three aces, three kills) set up fellow senior Shannon Coleman (13 kills), sophomore Regan Shields (15 kills, five assists) and junior Bailey Hamilton (seven kills) as the Region 2C champions took command.

Bruton’s only lead in the deciding set was at 3-2. Trailing 14-11, the Panthers scored the next two points before a violation on match point ended it.

Senior Sienna Owens (11 kills, six blocks, 10 digs, one ace) led

Bruton’s effort, while Mina Faw (nine kills, three blocks), Jolie Faw (seven kills, 10 blocks) and Cassie Hall (10 kills) had big days.

“The game’s not over until the fifth set, 15 points,” Owens said. “We learned how to work hard and fight because we had to all year in the district we played in.”

Appomattox County coach Mark Drinkard knows winning a state title isn’t easy. The Raiders lost twice during the regular season to Class 4 Jefferson Forest and once to Class 3 Brookville.

“Just an unbelievab­le match,” Drinkard said. “Bruton was awesome. We knew how talented they were. They’re big. They’re athletic. It took us a while to figure out how to get a ball by them. We kind of diagnosed some things we needed to change. The kids picked it up so well. They’ve done it all year long.”

 ?? BILLY SCHUERMAN/STAFF ?? Jolie Faw, shown in practice, finished with seven kills and 10 blocks in Saturday’s state championsh­ip match.
BILLY SCHUERMAN/STAFF Jolie Faw, shown in practice, finished with seven kills and 10 blocks in Saturday’s state championsh­ip match.

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