PARKERSBURG - When the Class A state volleyball tournament gets under way at 8:30 a.m. Friday inside the Charleston Civic Center, Little Kanawha Conference champion Tyler Consolidated will be the first of four area teams to take the floor.
The Silver Knights (43-4) are set to face off against Fayetteville and are in the big show for the first time since they won the Class AA state crown back in 2007 with the help of Cameron Yoho.
While last year's single-A state champion Wirt County didn't make the field for the first time since 2003, defending state runner-up Williamstown is ready to make another title run. Head coach Rachelle Pallini's Yellowjackets are 36-8-1, have a plethora of talented hitters and also possess one of the state's top defensive specialists in senior libero Brooke Cieslewski.
Photos by Jeff Baughan
The Parkersburg Catholic volleyball team, left, will face East Hardy in the first round of the state tournament Friday. Team members are, front row, from left, Leah Hughes, Amy Tennant, Maddie Roedersheimer, coach Sandy Swisher, Hannah Fisher, Brooke Miller and Hannah Reifsteck. Back row, coach Paige Schultheis, Rachel Tennant, Reily Sturm, Lydia Walters, Kimberly Samolitis, Meredith Koerber, Ellen Roedersheimer and coach Kristyn Smith. The Williamstown Yellowjackets volleyball team will face Pendleton County. Team members are, front row, from left, Ashton Chancellor, Kenzie Smith, Carley Ellison, Lincoln Postlewaite, Brooke Cieslewski, Ciara Flowers, Lauren Amos, Jessica Kerns and Erica Amos. Back row, coach Ali Flowers, Chelsey Butler, Cierra King, Melissa Cieslewski, Shania George, coach Molly Kiger, Emrie Gray, Lilly Tuttle, Kristi Mayo and coach Rachelle Pallini.
Williamstown, which will square off against Pendleton County, actually will be the last area team to take the floor in the quarterfinals. Parkersburg Catholic (27-21-1) is set to battle East Hardy after the TCHS/Fayetteville match and Magnolia kicks off the 1:30 p.m. session against Sherman with WHS following.
Should all four area teams attain victories in the quarterfinals, the Silver Knights then would face off against the Crusaderettes while Magnolia (20-12-1) and Williamstown would battle in the other semifinal. If that happens, the volleyball teams of the Blue Eagles and Yellowjackets would be playing at the same time as the football teams are in New Martinsville.
"That's been the joke at our house. It's a Williamstown weekend," quipped Magnolia head coach Pam Chapman, whose husband Dave is an assistant football coach for the No. 2 ranked Blue Eagles.
Of course, the Blue Eagles and 'Jackets still need one win apiece to make that happen in Charleston, but that's the plan.
"We're really excited. We're trying to keep them focused and on track for the first game because if we don't win it's all for naught," said coach Chapman, whose team is led by junior hitter Mallory Chapman and junior setter Lauren Cline.
"You hope you peak at the right time and I think that's what we are doing. The kids have a lot of confidence. I think we are where we want to be and we just have to go down and play like we can."
Williamstown has only met the Blue Eagles twice, splitting two sets at Parkersburg's Snowball Invitational and beating Magnolia 2-0 in a triangular at Paden City.
"If we play our game we'll get the outcome we want. That's kind of our attitude," coach Pallini said. "We've been really working hard this week. We just want to change the outcome from last year. We kind of feel like we let it slip away because we were ahead two games to one.
"All but three of my players were there last year on the floor and they don't want a repeat of last year. The thing we have going for us is we have six strong hitters. We're focusing on our game and we know we're tough to beat when we come to play."
The Crusaderettes do own a victory against Tyler Consolidated having picked up a win on senior night in Kidwell against the Silver Knights. While Maddie Roedersheimer is the top offensive weapon for head coach Sandy Swisher's team, fellow senior Hannah Fisher leads PCHS in blocks.
"We need to get to our blocks quicker than we have been and we're working on that," stated Swisher, whose team reached the state tournament for the first time in 17 years. "We don't have the greatest speed and our reaction time needs to be quicker.
"PCHS hasn't been in this situation for years. That would be one advantage that Williamstown has. We'll go play the best we can and what will be will be."
For coach Summers, no member of his roster has been to state, but he's hoping his five seniors - led by Class AA first team all-state spiker Allison Wable and fellow senior setter Torrye Cline - can help the Silver Knights to the school's second state net crown.
"There are only eight teams left in single-A and you are there for a reason and are obviously a good team with kids who believe they should be there," Summers said of the field. "I have no doubt we'll have our hands full at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.
"We're just thrilled to be there and thrilled for these girls to have the opportunity. They understand they've got as good a chance as anybody, but somebody in Charleston is not going to play well and go home early."