The journey may not have been as smooth as it had been the past three seasons, but in the end Auburn volleyball’s final destination wound up in the exact same place atop the state.
The Eagles claimed their fourth straight Class 1 state title with a 25-13, 20-25, 25-21, 25-20 victory over Rappahannock inside the Salem Civic Center on Saturday afternoon.
After going undefeated to claim the Class 1 championship in 2021, the Eagles opened this season with a loss to Bland County, which would be one of eight defeats suffered by Auburn (19-8) during the fall campaign. Eagles head coach Sherry Millirons said overcoming those struggles made this title win even more special.
“This season has not gone without its bumps. We played Bland County our first game and missed 24 serves. Today we missed six. From our first to our last match that shows the growth of our team and makes this even more special with what we went through,” Millirons said.
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Auburn split the first two sets on Saturday with Rappahannock (30-2) before opening the third on a 9-2 run. The Raiders would rally getting as close as 23-21 late in the set before the Eagles finally closed things out.
The fourth set followed a similar pattern as the Eagles opened up a 14-6 lead. The Raiders made one last comeback attempt, cutting the deficit to 22-19 before Auburn ended the match winning three of the final four points.
“They were very challenging, and we had our ups and downs as well, but once we really came together, we were able to accomplish our goals,” Auburn senior Madison Ketterer said.
The two teams played in the regular season, with the Raiders taking a five-set victory Sept. 10, but Millirons believed her squad’s postseason experience had benefited the Eagles in the rematch Saturday, along with momentum being on Auburn’s side.
“When you establish a tradition, the girls have the experience when you get here,” Millirons said. “We had that experience which is huge in this kind of environment to handle the nerves, and the last three weeks we’ve gotten healthy and just got better and better.”
Despite the defeat, Rappahannock coach Kristin Patterson is optimistic this won’t be the last time you see the Raiders competing for titles at the state level thanks to work her departing senior class put into the program.
“We really have turned the sport of volleyball around in our school,” Patterson said. “I called it when this group was in fifth grade that they would someday play for a state championship.”