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Auburn volleyball makes VHSL history with 74 straight wins, another Class 1 title
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Auburn volleyball makes VHSL history with 74 straight wins, another Class 1 title

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Auburn High School’s 2021 volleyball team has lived by one unwritten rule:

“Don’t peek at the streak.”

Eagles head coach Sherry Millirons’ one-match-at-a-time mantra about focusing on the present instead of the past is a time-honored strategy.

Well, Auburn’s past is now VHSL history as the Eagles stretched their state-record win streak to 74 by claiming a third consecutive Class 1 state championship Saturday with a 25-8, 25-10, 25-9 victory over Riverheads at Salem Civic Center.

Thirty-one opponents in 2021 tried to knock the Eagles off their lofty perch.

All 31 failed.

It was a repeat three-peat as Auburn’s 2019, 2020 and 2021 titles matched the program’s 2012, 2013 and 2014 championships during Millirons’ first tenure at the Montgomery County school.

“It’s awesome,” senior Anna McGuire said. “A lot of people don’t get the chance to do what we just did.”

While Saturday’s championship match lasted just 50 minutes, don’t assume Auburn’s unbeaten run to the title was a mere coronation.

When the VHSL pushed the 2020 season into the spring of 2021 because of COVID-19, followed by this season’s schedule that began in August, it crammed two seasons worth of volleyball into an nine-month window.

“We’ve been playing volleyball since February,” Millirons said. “It feels like a long haul. When we were allowed to get back in the gym in July of 2020, we were almost starting over.

“We did this in the middle of a pandemic, and we managed to stay healthy. That’s just a lot of luck.”

Riverheads (20-9) overcame more than its share of adversity to reach the final for the fourth year in a row.

One starter transfered. Another was recovering from a knee injury. A third player was lost for the season after she was kicked in the face by a horse.

“At the beginning of the year I started with seven players that were eligible to play on the court,” Riverheads coach Amy Moore said. “We knew we had an uphill battle, these girls rose to the challenge.

“We came in here today believing in ourselves. Obviously, the chips didn’t fall in our direction today.”

The lone chink in Auburn’s armor was a 2-0 deficit in the opening set, the only time Riverheads had the upper hand all day.

The rest of the match belonged to the long arm of Auburn senior Allyson Martin, whose 20 kills were nine more than Riverheads’ total as a team.

Avery Zuckerwar added 10 kills as McGuire’s 34 assists produced wide-open holes in the Gladiators’ defensive wall.

“Anna did a really good job of mixing up the [sets],” Martin said. “She’d get Avery twice and then get it out to me, which really got the blockers confused.”

Martin put down her 20 kills on 40 attempts with just five errors.

“We’ll give it to her,” said Riverheads senior Dayton Moore, the head coach’s daughter. “We didn’t always touch it on the block, but she’s good hitter. She can find our weak spots, and she definitely did that.”

Riverheads had neither the defense nor the hitting power to keep pace. Senior Kendyl Argenbright led the team from Augusta County with five kills. Moore finished with 10 assists as the Gladiators scored just seven points on their own serve in the entire match.

Madeline Lavergne had five kills, four aces and 12 digs for Auburn, while Stacy Lewis had 11 digs and Madison Ketterer added 10.

Auburn, led by players named Allyson, Anna and Avery, brought its ‘A’ game to Salem.

“I told the girls on Tuesday after we beat Chilhowie [in a semifinal] that I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet,” Millirons said. “I think we did today.”

Auburn’s state final in April was played on the Eagles’ home court with a limited number of spectators.

All parties were happy to return to the civic center.

“To be able to play here, where it feels a little more normal, and you get to play on a big stage versus what we did in April in a gym, I think that makes it special,” Millirons said.

For Auburn, the journey was a long one.

“It was definitely hard. We all got tired at some point, but in the back of our minds we wanted this so we went to practice and worked hard every day,” Zuckerwar said. “We got in slumps, but we worked our way out of them.”

Auburn’s Class 1 volleyball dominance is akin to the four consecutive state titles and long winning streak owned by Riverheads’ football program.

Now the Riverheads volleyball team knows how all those vanquished football foes feel.

“We definitely get that a lot,” Dayton Moore said. “We’re on the back side of what other teams go through when our football team plays. We definitely understand. [Auburn] is good team. We’ll give it to them.”

Only nine opponents managed to win a single set against Auburn during its 74-game streak. The Eagles defeated Class 2 state champion Glenvar twice by 3-2 scores along with a pair of wins over Class 3 Lord Botetourt.

Auburn also hosted an in-season tournament that included Riverheads, Chilhowie and PH-Glade Spring.

“We catch a lot of flak because people say we win because we’re [Class] 1,” Millirons said. “And there’s some truth to that. But our schedule’s as strong as it’s ever been, and we showed up every day.”

Contact Robert Anderson at robert.anderson@roanoke.com or 981-3123

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