By Stephen Smoot
As the season winds down, the Wildcat volleyball team continues to put the pieces together for another run at the state tournament. With several games against larger schools and experienced competition on the horizon, Pendleton County faced off against an opponent they recently dispatched at home, Tygarts Valley.
Pendleton County leapt to an early advantage as Carolyn Varner served two aces to commence the contest. The Bulldogs took the serve once, but Varner set up a Brynlynn Waggy spike to get it back, followed by a set to Alyssa Bennett for the same result.
The Wildcats pushed to a 12 to 3 lead with another spike from Bennett and one from Kate Hedrick, alongside aces by Allie Cooper and Emma Hartman helping the cause. Pendleton County thoroughly dominated the rest of the set with Breena Bowers serving nine straight times to extend the lead out to 21 to 5.
Tygarts Valley mustered some momentum toward the end of the set, scoring three in a row. Varner, however, shut the door with an ace, followed by a Hedrick spike for a set final score of 25 to 8.
The Bulldogs barked in the second set, settling down and trying to keep up with the Wildcats. Spikes by Lizzie Alt, Gabby DePue, and Hedrick set the early lead at 5 to 1, but Tygarts Valley bounced back, pulling to within one.
Varner then set another DePue spike to gain a two-point advantage at 6 to 4. Cooper took the serve, scoring an ace. That was followed by her diving to save a ball, with a set helping Bennett find an open spot of the floor. Cooper then earned another ace to extend the lead to 10 to 4.
The Bulldogs then went on a five to one run to pull within three at 11 to 8. They kept the game close until Varner regained the serve. Two aces and sharper play gave the Wildcats a five to nothing run and a 19 to 12 advantage. They held off the Bulldog attack from that point and won the second set 25 to 16.
In the third set, Pendleton County resolved to put the Bulldogs back in the kennel. Varner attempted to repeat the rare feat that she accomplished last year in serving 25 straight times in a junior varsity match. Here, she fine-tuned her low trajectory serves and delivered the ball 20 straight times, 12 of them aces. Most of the remaining eight scores came from plays by Alt, DePue, and Hedrick.
The streak only ended when Varner forgot a high school rule. One time during a serving rotation, a server may take a mulligan. If they do not like the way the ball is tossed in the air, they can let it drop and serve again. Varner attempted this twice during her rotation. The official, apparently reluctantly, called the penalty and Pendleton County gave up the serve.
On Tygarts Valley’s next serve, DePue blocked the attempt, giving the serve to Alt, who also aced. The set and game ended on a Cooper ace with the score 25 to 2.
Pendleton County’s recent success has come increasingly from the contributions of young players getting significant time, especially Bennett. Head coach Rod Cooper gives the credit to his assistant coach, Madison Day, saying, “It’s good teaching. Madison does a good job of teaching.”
Day responded, saying, “And the girls do a good job of listening to their coach.”
“Next week will be a big one,” Cooper noted following the match. “We’ve got a powerful schedule next week.”
The Wildcats hosted Elkins Monday and Moorefield Wednesday and will host Keyser tonight, which is senior night.