By Stephen Smoot
Last Tuesday, Pendleton County traveled to Moorefield to play the second round of the volleyball sectionals. Though Rod Cooper, head coach, disputed the process of home court selection, he also said “it doesn’t matter. We’ll win anywhere.”
As it turned out, the Wildcats made themselves right at home on a court where the Yellow Jackets swept them in September.
Carolyn Varner and Baylee Beachler teamed up to put the first two points on the board for Pendleton County. Varner served both times. Beachler blocked a return, then took a Varner set and tapped the ball to the middle. Moorefield later came within one with a 3 to 2 score, but a bad Moorefield serve and a Gabby DePue block extended the lead to 5 to 2. Beachler served up an ace next to give her squad a five-point lead
In September, the dynamic was controlled by Moorefield. They would forge ahead, the Wildcats would come close, then the home team pushed ahead again. This time Pendleton County took control and the Yellow Jackets constantly battled to remain within striking distance.
Moorefield did come back to a three-point deficit, but Alyssa Bennett shut them down with a precise shot to the back line to extend the lead to 9 to 5. The Yellow Jackets mostly stayed within three the rest of the set, then made their move at the end. Down 21 to 17, they scored three straight points. Shortly thereafter, with the Wildcats clinging to a narrow 23 to 21 margin, Beachler fired a hard spike, then served an ace to win the set.
In the second set, the Yellow Jackets took an early 3 to 2 lead. Pendleton County shortly after tied the game at four. Emma Hartman fired two straight aces to give her team a two-point advantage.
Once again, Moorefield looked like they would hang around and try to make a move to take the lead late, but the Wildcats went on a 12 to three run to assume a 20 to 9 lead. Lizzie Alt’s two solid hits to open spots helped fuel the run early. Beachler, who dominated the net, also had three scoring plays in a row. Late in the set, her team up 22 to 11, Beachler rose to block a return and the Moorefield player fired the ball out of bounds to avoid the block.
The set ended with a Hartman ace.
Moorefield came out firing in set number three, scoring the first six points with dominant net play. Varner set up a DePue spike for Pendleton County’s first score of the set. Kate Hedrick blocked a return, then Beachler served two aces. Down 10 to 9, Hedrick spiked the ball, then Breena Bowers helped her team take the lead with an ace. Hedrick followed with another spike off a Varner set.
As in every game Allie Cooper’s hustle and speed on the back line kept shots in play, setting up scores at the net.
Moorefield tied the set again at 19, but a Bowers ace and an Alt spike to the back line helped to push the lead to 22 to 20. A few plays later, DePue slammed the door shut on the set, the game, and Moorefield’s season with a block.
After the game, Rod Cooper said, “I wasn’t sure if we could handle it, but we did.” He then praised his team, emphasizing that their success in October started in July. “They started working in July and haven’t stopped, and it paid off tonight. They’ve given it 110 percent since July.”
Their next game was the sectional final, played at East Hardy.