Gate City will host Lebanon again Tuesday in the Conference 40 tournament quarterfinal elimination round. The survivor advances to the semifinals on Wednesday at regular season champion Lee with the championship match also at Lee on Thursday.
Gate City (18-5, 9-2) won the first set easily 25-11. With the Lady Blue Devils leading 4-2 in the opener, a seven point burst expanded the advantage to 11-2.
Freshman Aubrie Penley had 10 service points in the first game including four aces. Senior Cori Baker contributed five aces and three blocks.
The second frame was more competitive before Gate City pulled away at the end with three straight points to win 25-20. Baker put down two kills and Penley one in the final stretch to secure the win and two-set lead.
“Senior Night is an emotional time,” said Gate City coach Amy Reed. “We lost a little enthusiasm and focus in the last two games. We were able to work on a few things in the match that we needed.
“We didn’t get it done in Tuesday’s loss at Union for whatever reason. Union played scrappy and gave it their all. We cannot afford to lose focus at any time from here on or our season will be over.”
Gate City had to overcome an early 12-6 deficit in the third set. The Lady Blue Devils rallied with five straight points on three kills from Sydney Fields, a kill by Abby Sallee and an ace from senior Sydney Miller to get within a point at 12-11.
With the score tied at 16-16, the Lady Devils outscored Lebanon 9-3 the rest of the way to get the match victory 25-19. Freshman Kinslee Hammonds contributed three kills in the third set.
Cori Baker led Gate City with 17 kills, three blocks, six digs and four aces, the last of which came on match point.
“We’ve got to play a lot faster than we’ve played lately,” said Baker. “Playing fast is our strength. It’s the fun time of the season coming up. I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Sallee dished out 31 assists, came up with a dozen digs and served four aces in the match for Gate City.
“We’ve been getting better since our first match of the season,” said Sallee. “We’ve got a lot of good chemistry on this team. We’re excited about the post-season. We need to be mentally strong and ready to play every night out.”
Lebanon was led by Cassidy Burke with four kills and two aces. Abby Compton came up with 14 digs, and Kayla Bollinger handed out 11 assists to go with 10 digs for the Lady Pioneers.
“We got off to a slow start in the first set, but kind of got it together in the last two games,” said Lebanon coach Dennis Price. “Gate City made a lot of good plays down the stretch. They are always good. I was proud of our effort. We didn’t quit.”
Gate City’s four seniors — Lexi Helms, Sallee, Miller and Baker — have compiled a 102-10 conference record during their four years.