As she tiptoed toward the net, rose up and coiled her wrist, Elyssia Smith was pulsing with energy.

Not the kinetic kind, that had been expended long before the Colonial Forge senior drove home the final point of Monday’s Region 6B volleyball championship.

Over the course of five frantic sets against Franklin County, the Eagles lost their voices. They gained crimson stains on their knee guards. And they channeled a force more metaphysical in nature.

“Energy means not necessarily like physically, it means will power,” Smith said. “So how much you put forth each point. Each point matters, each ball matters.”

That mentality was practically a prerequisite for Colonial Forge’s 24–26, 25–14, 22–25, 25–23, 15–7 triumph. The visitors from Rocky Mount rode an orange school bus emblazoned with the words “Eagles Express” nearly four hours up Route 81 for Monday’s match. And they were determined to make the most of the trip.

Colonial Forge led the opening set 22–20 before Franklin County drew even at 24 apiece and won when an ace guided itself to an unoccupied bit of hardwood. In the huddle, Eagles coach Courtney Guengerich, who inherited a squad that finished 7–14 last season, reminded her players that they’d come a long way, too.

“We’ve worked too hard to just let this game go,” said Smith, who finished with seven kills.

Reinvigorated, the Eagles jumped out to an 11–3 lead in the second set and never wavered. Franklin County claimed the third set and Colonial Forge the fourth, setting up a race to 15 points for the region championship.

Despite a lack of common opponents, Guengerich was able to extract a short scouting report on Franklin County from videos she found online. The Eagles adjusted their lineup accordingly, reinforcing their blocking in the middle.

Ultimately, though, it wasn’t strategy that lifted the Eagles to their first region title in more than a decade. It was staying power.

“It was draining,” said Emma Lazerson, whose all-around performance consisted of 11 kills, 18 digs and three aces. “When you lose it, you want it right back. There’s nothing better than once you get it back. You know what it’s like and you want it every single time.”

Franklin County (17–5) boarded the Eagles Express harboring an unfamiliar feeling after dropping its first match since Sept. 18.

“Mental toughness,” Franklin County coach Kaitlyn Dula said. “I think that’s what it came down to. We just got caught a few different times playing their game.”

Both teams advance to the Class 6 state quarterfinals, with Colonial Forge hosting a yet-to-be-determined opponent on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Eagles’ journey began with a modest goal of improvement.

It could end at William & Mary’s Kaplan Arena.

“All along we’ve known we could go far,” Guengerich said. “What that means, I still don’t know. I’m looking forward to finding out.”

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Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045 jlomonaco@freelancestar.com @joeylomonaco

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