By Stephen Smoot
Pendleton County’s volleyball squad rolled to the western end of Corridor H, then rolled over the squad from triple A Buckhannon-Upshur.
At the start, the contest looked like it would fall in favor of the larger school. Although the Wildcats fought for an early 2-1 lead, the Buccaneers surged ahead to a 15-8 lead. This came after an eight to two run by the home team.
Pendleton County showed their claws in the second half of the first set, making a run of their own at the end, outscoring Buckhannon-Upshur 6-8, but falling 25-17 at the close of the set.
The momentum established at the end of set one carried forward, however. The Wildcats pounced on their opponents behind Carolyn Varner’s seven serves to open the set. These included two aces. Lizzie Alt found an opening on the far side that she worked to exploit the rest of the game. Varner also contributed by appearing to perform her customary set, only to send the ball directly to the middle for a score after Gabby DePue created the opportunity for her.
Pendleton County posted the first six points. Buckhannon-Upshur responded, only to run into an Avery Townsend spike and a Baylee Beachler ace to extend the lead to 9-2. The Buccaneers closed the lead somewhat, only to see the Wildcats successfully spike the ball, followed by Kate Hedrick blocking the opponent’s return for an 11-5 advantage.
Emma Hartman ran off five straight serves to help her team build the lead to 14-6. Within that run, Buckhannon-Upshur made crucial mistakes while Townsend scored another spike. The Buccaneers regained the serve briefly, then Breena Bowers’ run serving the ball broke the set wide open. Hedrick scored another spike, while Varner set up a spike from Alt.
The second set ended as Beachler softly tapped a ball to a hole in the middle of the Buckhannon-Upshur defense for a commanding set victory of 25-10.
Also active was Allie Cooper, chasing down well hit shots, diving on the floor, and saving seemingly impossible plays from her knees. Often, hers were the first hands on the ball to set up returns or spikes. She also fired difficult shots back at the middle and back lines of the Buckhannon-Upshur defense.
Set number three started with a Buccaneer ace to give them the early lead, but Beachler took the serve back by using her precision game to find another open spot in the defense. With Varner serving, Pendleton County quickly pushed in front.
Hartman’s serves once again fueled a long run. She started her run with an ace, followed shortly thereafter by a Hedrick spike. Another ace by Hartman put her team up 12-3. After the Wildcats briefly lost the serve, Bowers locked it down for six more serves, taking the lead out to 19-6.
In weekend action, Pendleton County competed in the Volley in the Valley tournament, hosted by Greenbrier East.
The Wildcats initially lost to Woodrow Wilson two sets to none. Pendleton County lost the first set 25-10, but closed the gap significantly in the second, 25-21. Woodrow Wilson lost to eventual gold bracket champion George Washington.
Next, Pendleton took one set and lost one to Parkersburg. They lost the first 25-17, but prevailed in the next 25-14.
The Wildcats also split with Pikeview, taking the first set 25 to seven, but losing the second 25 -22.
Pendleton County then defeated Princeton and Riverview to take the silver bracket championship.
After a weekend of competing with some of the largest schools in the state, the Wildcats returned to action on Tuesday, traveling to East Hardy. They will travel Tuesday to Elkins and host Tucker County on Oct. 5.