ELIZABETH - There is an old adage that says time heals all wounds, but that might not necessarily be the case for the Wirt County volleyball team.
Things are quite different for the Tigers this year as they continue to try and cope with the death of teammate Sarah Hennen, who was instrumental in helping the orange and black to the Class A state net crown last November.
Hennen, who finished the five-set state finals match against Williamstown with official totals of 24 kills and 17 blocks, was expected to be an integral part of the orange and black attack as a middle hitter alongside fellow senior teammate Taylor Watson.
However, less than two months after hoisting up the state hardware the Tiger family lost Hennen unexpectedly in early January.
"It's going to be tough because she was one of our main middle players and because she was so tall and could block," said Tiger junior Brandy Bunch. "It's going to be a hard year without her.
"It was great being there as a sophomore and Sarah being there because she had all those hard hits and blocks and it helped us out a lot."
Veteran Tiger head coach Janet Frazier, who has eight state titles to her credit, is doing what she normally does according to assistant coach Mike Shremshock.
"She's plugging in players where it's best for the team," he said.
Senior Makayla Bell, a back row player last year, will be the Tigers' libero this season. She will be sporting a purple and white shirt in honor of Hennen and the team will wear patches on their jerseys that feature a purple heart with the letters SH and the No. 8 in them.
"We do fine until something reminds us of her," said Tiger senior Emily Ohrn, a second team all-state pick who made the all-tournament team in Charleston last November along with Watson and Hennen.
"She wouldn't want us to be sad all the time so we try not to act like it."
Still, the pain is obvious to anyone close to the program, but there's little choice aside from trying to continue moving forward day by day.
"She'd be ticked off if I didn't stick with these girls this year," said Sarah's mother, Debbie Hennen, the Tigers' scorekeeper. "I'm still going to do it.
"Sarah wasn't in it for the individual glory. It was all about the team and if that meant she had to sit the bench then that was just fine with her."
With the absence of what would've been one of the top players in all of Class A, the Tiger netters are having to learn new roles.
"We all switched positions and everything has changed," Watson said. "Brandy and Emily are in the middle, and me and Sydney Summers are on the outside."
Ohrn is confident the Tigers still can put up a serious challenge to defend their state crown.
"I think we're closer as a team and I plan to win," she said of going out on top as a senior. "I still think that we can win it again."
While the task of trying to repeat is going to be anything but easy, it's safe to say the Wirt County volleyball team is just trying to do the best they can in honor of their fallen teammate.
"You can tell we miss her a lot on our team," Bunch admitted. "It's just weird without her being there. It's sad, but it's something we have to get through and just make sure we do it and win one for her.
"It's still good, but every day you come to practice thinking that she's going to be there. But, no, she's not."