United advances through Aledo

Aaron Frey/Register Mail
Courtney Bennett hangs in the air against United.

Gina Long sticks to a simple strategy when it comes to hitting. "I just try to get it over and that's it," the United sophomore middle hitter said.

She did plenty of that Wednesday night against Aledo in a semifinal of the Class 1A Abingdon Regional. Long notched a match-high 12 kills and added a pair of blocks to give the Red Storm (30-5) an easy 25-13, 25-11 victory over the Green Dragons.

"(Long's) gotten progressively better all year," United coach Donn Damos said. "She's one of the better players in the area. She's got a lot of work to do, but she's got a lot of raw talent. She can hit over people and she's done it against some (Class) 2A schools."

United, the top seed, advances to the regional championship match Saturday.

The win clinched back-to-back 30-win seasons for the Red Storm, who advanced last year to supersectionals.

"We reset our goal for 30 wins and we were able to accomplish that," Damos said. "I never expected that to happen."

United led the entire match and had a 13-12 advantage in the first set. Aledo appeared to tie the score when Andrea Attig's dig fell in the middle of the United defense. But the call was overturned when one of the officials ruled the ball hit the antenna.

United was awarded the point and went on to take 11 of the next 12 points to win the first set.

"We just started playing. You're a little nervous in that first regional match," Damos said.

"Everybody wants to keep playing. You're either in or you're out."

The Red Storm won the final nine points of the set on Carissa Youngquist's serve, and Long put down five kills during that stretch off assists from Mollie Murdock.

"It was important for us to get going fast," Long said. "We started out a little bit slow, but we got better as the game went on."

Long took a pass from Murdock midway through the second set and had the ball clip the top of the net with her hit. It rolled to the other side of the court and fell down for her final kill of the evening.

"I knew I got really lucky on that," Long said. "I don't know how it got over and it shouldn't have."

United used every player from its bench in the second set. Junior Julie Gunter had kills on the Red Storm's final two points.

Aledo advanced to the semifinals with a 25-19, 25-20 opening-round win over ROWVA earlier Wednesday night.