Lady Falcons Beat The Best -- Twice!

Mere hours after sweeping Gloucester in the semis of Eastern Region competition Saturday, Cox’s girls charged past Princess Anne in the finals Saturday at Tallwood (last week’s nor’easter forced the teams to play a doubleheader). Photo by Jason Norman

To take home the Eastern Region title, Cox's girls would have to beat the best the area had to offer. But because of factors far beyond their control, they'd have to do it twice in one day.

After last week's nor'easter forced a doubleheader Saturday at Tallwood, Cox's girls started off the morning with a sweep of Peninsula District powerhouse Gloucester, while Princess Anne took three games to beat back Granby in the other tourney semifinal.

After a trip home for a long nap, the Beach District rivals headed back for their fourth meeting of the season. Head to head, Cox held a 2-1 advantage, including the district tournament final.

At stake were more than just the title, and a berth in the state games. It was the right to stay home. The winner would get to host Deep Run in the first round Tuesday; the loser would have to head to Richmond to face Mills Godwin.

"We got our mindset in the game this morning," said Cox's Corrie Sanders. "It was a warmup for the final game. We all play club, so we're used to playing more than one game in a day." It showed; the Lady Falcons overcame an early slow start to defeat Anne, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19, 25-18.

The Lady Cavaliers grabbed the momentum in the opening game, as a Gaby Smith ace game them an 11-3 lead. Cox fought back, as three straight scoring serves from Sanders tied the score at 17. A kill by Agie Darcus and a tip from Holly Browning got Anne up 22-19, but Sydney Long got Cox back the ball with her second kill of the game, then knocked over three serves to put Anne up for the first time, 23-22.

Brooke Barnes tied the score with a kill, but Kelsey Page hammered one of her own for Cox, and Sanders bounced a spike through the Anne defense for a win.

The gauntlet swung both ways in the second game, as Anne rushed to an 11-8 lead, only to see Cox go ahead 19-15. Smith hammered home a kill and Barnes a pair of aces, but Cox got ahead 21-19. Kills by Darcus and Browning tied the score at 21, and another by Smith knotted things at 22.

Anne scored a quick point, and Smith whacked an ace for a 24-22 lead. Then Browning tipped a shot past the Lady Falcon defense, tying the match score at a game apiece.

Ironically, Cox never trailed again. Blanford showed the skills that won her the Beach District Player of the Year honors, blasting three kills in the third game, including the one that ended the contest at 25-19. The Lady Falcons dominated game four as well, charging to an early 10-2 lead and never letting Anne get closer than five after that. Blanford and Sanders finished off the match by blocking down a kill attempt by Barnes.

"We played them before," said Sanders, who led the match with 16 kills (Blanford had 10, Long nine). "We knew what was coming, we knew what was on the line, so we could keep our mind on that and focused through the whole game."

On Tuesday, Cox takes its first step toward the fifth state title in school history, and first since 2004.

"What kept them focused was that we really wanted to stay home on Tuesday, instead of having to drive to Richmond to play in Godwin's gym," said Cox coach Claire LeBlanc. "This definitely gives us confidence, and it means another team has to play in front of your home crowd, which is always difficult."