PARKERSBURG - The Little Kanawha Conference volleyball championship most definitely will be up for grabs starting at 4 p.m. Saturday inside Doddridge County High School.
With Tyler Consolidated having been reclassified from double-A status, all four teams vying for the LKC crown are in Class A. It just so happens the other three - defending LKC/state champion Wirt County along with Williamstown and Gilmer County - also happen to now all be in Section 1 of Region IV, meaning at least one of them can't even qualify to the regional tournament.
As is the case now, most everyone is more concerned about being the best in the LKC and Williamstown (28-7-1) will get the first chance to dethrone the champion Tigers, who are 0-1 versus the Yellowjackets this year. However, Wirt County head coach Janet Frazier's team has been dealing with illness lately.
"I think we will be OK, but it kind of stinks. We had four starters gone from Wednesday's practice," said Frazier, whose Tigers defeated Williamstown in the Class A state finals a year ago and also rallied from losing the first two sets in the LKC semifinals last year to the Yellowjackets before storming back to victory.
Wirt County, which has gotten solid play from a variety of positions out of senior Emily Ohrn this fall, will bring a 25-10-3 record into Saturday.
Like Ohrn, Yellowjacket senior Brooke Cieslewski earned second team Class A all-state honors last year. Although the Yellowjackets of head coach Rachelle Pallini feature seven seniors and can have a plethora of players step up on any given night, the continued defensive presence of Cieslewski is hard to miss.
Little Kanawha Conference
Saturday at Doddridge County
Start time: 4 p.m. semifinals Format: Best three-of-five
Defending LKC champion: Wirt County
LKC South No. 1 Wirt County (25-10-3) vs. LKC North No. 2 Williamstown (28-7-1)
LKC North No. 1 Tyler Consolidated (35-2) vs. LKC South No. 2 Gilmer County (20-8)
"The girls have developed kind of a new motto for the rest of the season - no regrets," coach Pallini said. "They don't want to end the season regretting anything they do. They are going to go out and play as hard as they can.
"They kind of want to redeem themselves from last year. It's kind of been the same story all season. If we show up we have a good shot. We can't make unforced errors and hand over points, you know. We can't dig holes. That's what we need to not do."
Gilmer County (20-8) and Tyler Consolidated also will battle at 4 p.m. in the other semifinal, but these two programs haven't squared off yet this year.
The Silver Knights have a strong nucleus of players, including returning Class AA first team all-stater Allison Wable.
"The last time we won the LKC was 2007 when we won state with Cameron Yoho and that group," said Silver Knight head coach Richard Summers, whose squad is 35-2 with setbacks to Oak Glen and Wirt County.
"I know Gilmer County is pretty good from what everybody tells me. It will be a good tournament. I'd have a hard time betting against any of the teams."
The Titans of head coach Crystal Metz Wagner, who return Class A all-state second team pick Julie Bishop, have been focusing on blocking and hitting.
"We've had a good season so far," stated coach Wagner, who said her girls also have been trying to continue developing their footwork and overall court coverage.
"We've had some tough losses. Hopefully, we can shine this Saturday. I am proud of my team so far and I look forward to the rest of the season."
After the 4 p.m. semifinals, the championship and consolation matches will follow simultaneously.