By Stephen Smoot
Last week in sectional action, the Moorefield Yellow Jackets won the sectional championship at Franklin, defeating Pendleton County three games to one. Both teams had already earned a spot in the regional tournament held Saturday at Doddridge County.
Moorefield had lost to the Wildcats earlier last month, but brought significant experience and athleticism to the contest. In the first game, they exploded out to a seven to one lead playing suffocating defense and precise offense.
The Wildcats struggled to get started until the middle of the game. After falling behind 16-6, Pendleton County worked to grind out points with big plays by Arianna Young and Jenna Smith’s effective serving, but could not overcome Moorefield’s momentum. They fell in the first game 25-12.
Undeterred, Pendleton County opened up their own large lead over the Yellow Jackets in game two. Avery Townsend and Smith, coupled with strong net play by Young and Gabrielle DePue, helped their team gain an 8-3 lead. Later, as Allie Cooper served, Baylee Beachler, Townsend, and Young all aggressively spiked on Moorefield.
The Yellow Jackets worked to try and get back into the game, but big plays at the net by Young and DePue held them at a consistent eight- and nine-point deficit. In the final minutes, Moorefield matched Pendleton County 7-7, but ended up falling in the game 25-16. Young ended the game with three straight serves, including an ace to end play.
Each game, but especially the second, showed Young doing as much as a player can in volleyball to pick up the team and carry it on her back. She consistently backed up her teammates, served aces, and delivered spikes. Lizzie Alt fed her a steady diet of precise sets to spike on the Vikings.
Coach Rod Cooper said of his lone senior, “She played hard. She wanted it. It just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
With the game tied overall, the third set brought out the best in both schools. It began with a Young spike to put Pendleton County on top first, but Moorefield took an early 3-1 lead. Big plays at the line helped the Wildcats to tie it up and stay with Moorefield early. DePue spiked an Alt set to tie the game, then a spike by DePue and block by Kate Hedrick helped to push the Wildcats into the lead.
Young then served six straight times as Pendleton County gained a 12-7 lead, but Moorefield fought back to tie the game at 15, then again at 17 and 18. Smith then fired a knuckleball like serve that tailed away to the floor for an ace to take the lead. The Yellow Jackets then took command with a 7-3 run to end the game at 25-22.
The Wildcats had no quit in them starting game four. Big plays by Beachler, both serving and at the net, pushed the Wildcats to an early 6-3 lead. Moorefield tied it at seven, then spikes by Hedrick and others gave Pendleton County a 10-8 lead.
At that point, Moorefield dug in and outscored the Wildcats 17-8, including an 8-0 run. Both teams traveled to regionals, won, then advanced to the state tournament in Charleston, played yesterday.
Coach Cooper stated that “the only thing we did was playing not to lose instead of playing to win.”
That said, the coaches were proud of their team and the crowd that came out, Coach Day said, “look at this support. They put on a show for this crowd and they responded.”