By Stephen Smoot
Almost two months ago, double A Keyser nearly defeated Pendleton County’s volleyball squad.
Last week the Wildcats stormed into Keyser with an F5 level performance that wiped away opposition resistance, turning the usually raucous Keyser Krazy student section sane.
Pendleton County had already earned the top seed in the sectionals coming into the game. This meant that the Wildcats enjoyed a bye before playing in their first postseason game Tuesday.
Game one opened with Wildcat spikes playing a role in three of the first four scores. Precision and aggression at the net early set the tone for the contest. Jenna Smith helped to break the game open early, serving six straight times. She was helped by spikes from Arianna Young and Kate Hedrick. At the end of Smith’s service, the Wildcats held an 8-3 lead.
Keyser took advantage of miscues to score three straight, but Pendleton County regained control through Young’s serving to extend the lead to 10-5. From there, the Wildcats went on a 10-5 run fueled by excellent serving from Elizabeth Alt, Avery Townsend, and Baylee Beachler. Pendleton County remained active at the net, with Beachler adding two spikes, a tap at the net, and an ace.
Game one ended with Allie Cooper serving and Young providing an exclamation point with a powerful spike.
Keyser jumped in front first in the second game with the early minutes very competitive. Keyser took a 6-5 lead, despite two spikes by Gabrielle DePue. The Wildcats then exploded on an 11-0 run on 11 straight serves by Young. Precision serving helped to keep Keyser off balance as Pendleton County dominated the net.
As the second game wound to a close, the Wildcats stayed well ahead of Keyser with a DePue spike, a Beachler ace, and costly mistakes by the opposition.
The Golden Tornados have seven seniors to Pendleton County’s one, but the Wildcats looked more experienced. Although Keyser boasted solid athleticism, it could not contend with the set plays and sheer effort displayed by Pendleton County. Coach Rod Cooper explained that “a lot of hard work has been put in that is now starting to pay off.” This includes running “middles” plays to confuse the opposition, encouraging players to diversify personal skill sets and more.
Pendleton County’s hard work and dedication to get better individually and collectively accounted for the dominant result over a Keyser team that almost beat them less than two months ago.
Assistant coach Madison Day praised the Wildcats’ “willingness to put their bodies on the line to put the ball up.” She added, “they’ve got a lot of grit and that’s something that you can’t coach.”
Keyser started game three refusing to surrender, battling to a 4-4 tie. As she had done all night, Young commenced a long serve streak that led to a 7-0 run and built an insurmountable lead. During that run, Hedrick had a block and a spike, Townsend a spike, and Young an ace.
Shortly thereafter, Pendleton County tore through a 9-0 run, taking the game to 24-11. Alt served four straight times, including an ace, and Townsend’s six straight also included an ace. The Wildcats often pressured the ball at the net with a two-player wall, relying on others’ athleticism to track down the ball and set it back up for a return.
Day explained that “we’ve gotten more aggressive and confident,” adding that “we’re playing to our strengths.” Coach Cooper added that the team is peaking at the best possible time with the postseason this week.
On Tuesday, Pendleton County faced Petersburg in sectional play. See next week’s edition for coverage of the sectional games.