By Stephen Smoot
Last season, the Moorefield Yellow Jackets volleyball squad floated like a butterfly and stung their way into the state playoffs. With much of their team returning this year, they look poised to make a strong run again in 2022.
Pendleton County faced a powerful challenge coming into Moorefield’s hive, but the Wildcats made short work of them.
The first game saw the Wildcats explode out to a 9-3 lead. Sure fire serving by sophomore Avery Townsend and strong defense at the net, led by junior Katelyn Hedrick, spurred the early display of dominance.
Throughout the first game, the Wildcats found space in the middle of the Moorefield defense both on serves and returns. Moorefield struggled mightily most of the night with Pendleton County’s aggressive style.
Pendleton County also displayed both power and accuracy in serving. As Coach Rod Cooper explains, “The girls made a commitment to get better, putting in practice on their own time to get better at serving.”
Moorefield struggled to close a gap that extended to eight in the middle of the first game when sophomore Baylee Beachler used an Elizabeth Alt set to drop a return into the middle of the Moorefield defense. Not long after, however, a diving set up by senior Arianna Young that led to a Beachler spike was negated by an official’s call.
The call blunted Pendleton County’s momentum, allowing Moorefield to go on a 10-4 run to close to a 22-19 deficit. Townsend’s accurate serving restored the Wildcats’ calm confidence. A Beachler spike, a Moorefield shot out of bounds, and a successful Beachler return closed out the first stanza 25-19.
Moorefield’s middle tightened in the second game. The Yellow Jackets withstood an initial short Pendleton County run and, in workmanlike style, built a 15-9 lead. Wildcat miscues helped Moorefield to extend that to 19-10 as they seemed to have figured a way to counter Pendleton County’s relentless style. Instead of challenging the Wildcat net defenders, they started to loft the ball to the middle of the Wildcat defense.
Supporting the aggressive front line put pressure on junior Allie Cooper, who with great and consistent effort tracked down shots to the middle and set up the front line. Beachler’s serves also set up an 8-0 Wildcat run to bring her team to a one point deficit at 19-18.
Spikes by Hedrick and Beachler down the stretch helped to seal a 25-22 final in the second game for Pendleton County.
In both the first and second game at times, Pendleton County lost some composure, but they bent instead of broke. Moorefield runs were countered by strong team play from the Wildcats.
Game three saw a near dominating performance from the Wildcats. Pendleton County raced out to an 8-2 lead in the opening minutes, sparked by a spike from junior Gabrielle DePue and a powerful block at the net of a Moorefield return by Alt and Hedrick. Alt, Young, Townsend, and others controlled the front line most of the night, but never more so than in the third game.
Moorefield tried to make the third game competitive with a 7-5 run late, but a great shot to the back line and a nifty play at the net to keep a volley alive by Young helped Pendleton County to lock down the final result of 25-17 for the game and a three to nothing wipeout of the Yellow Jackets overall.
Assistant Coach Madison Gargus echoed Coach Cooper’s pleasure with the performance. She explained that “everyone did their job” and praised their communication. “We took a big step tonight.”
Pendleton County completed a sweep of Hardy County teams last week, defeating East Hardy on Tuesday the 6th in five games. Results of the match at Elkins on the 13th were not available at press time.
The Wildcats go on the road today to play at Tucker County.