By Stephen Smoot
If volleyball were more akin to horseshoes and hand grenades, the recent trip to East Hardy might have produced a better outcome. Though the Wildcats fought hard throughout the game, the home standing Cougars edged out an advantage in each of the three sets played.
In set number one, East Hardy fired a spike to the back line to take the initial lead. Two spikes by Baylee Beachler helped the Wildcats to even up the score early on at three. Both teams played evenly, including two consecutive Kate Hedrick spikes, to knot the game again at seven.
East Hardy then pushed out to a three-point lead at 11 to 8. Much of the rest of the first set saw the Wildcats clawing back, only to watch the Cougars edge out to a three-point advantage again. Allie Cooper’s serving brought her squad to a 19 to 17 deficit before an East Hardy surge pushed their lead to six. Lizzie Alt spiked the ball to stave off a set loss, but East Hardy took the win 25 to 18.
In the second set, the Wildcats once again fell behind 2-0 at the outset. Beachler cut the lead in half with a spike, but then East Hardy went on a five to one run. Down 7-2, the Wildcats caught a break on a poor serve by the home team, followed by a Hedrick block at the net. Emma Hartman’s turn to serve resulted in her team coming back within two at 7-5.
The game continued to tighten up. Carolyn Varner cut the lead to one by serving up an ace. East Hardy pulled ahead, but then a Gabby DePue spike brought her team back, only down 13 to 12. East Hardy then went on an eight to one run to take a 20 to 13 lead. The Wildcats made a late push, but could not challenge again, losing the set 25 to 19.
The third set featured the same start as the first two, the Cougars taking a 2-0 lead, then allowing a Wildcat score. This time, Alt took a Varner set and aimed it precisely into the Cougar defense. East Hardy responded by pushing the lead out to 16 to 6, but the Wildcats answered with a five to two run, including two straight Cooper aces, to get back into it.
The score remained tight as Alt set up a successful Avery Townsend return followed by a DePue spike to knot the game at 14. Unfortunately, East Hardy once again pulled ahead and took the set and the game.
Pendleton County’s road trip to Baker came after a long weekend of play where they won the silver bracket championship in a tournament held at Greenbrier West. Head Coach Rod Cooper did not mark fatigue as an issue, saying that East Hardy simply played better on that given night.
The Wildcats traveled Tuesday to Elkins. They take the court today at home versus the Tucker County Mountain Lions.