By Stephen Smoot
Some games pit together strong rivals of comparatively similar capabilities. They incite strong emotions and inspire big plays. Players and fans circle the game on the calendar and wait with eager anticipation.
In other games, a good team trying to become great must pack its collective lunch pails and put in the work.
Pendleton County’s volleyball team experienced no let down coming off of a difficult weekend in which they competed against some of the best double and triple A teams in the state, but gained no wins. They brought a strong and consistent effort to the matchup against the visitors from Tygarts Valley and came away with a three games to none victory that lasted only about an hour.
In the first game, the Wildcats strangled their opponents’ efforts at the outset. Arianna Young’s powerful serves broke the defense immediately, helping her squad to push out to an early 7-0 lead. Spikes from Avery Townsend, Allie Cooper, and Gabreille DePue also helped to set the early tone.
Tygarts Valley tried to make a run of their own in the middle of the game, but ran into outstanding serving and excellent team defense. The Wildcats outpaced the Bulldogs 11-7 to close out the first game with a 25-10 win.
In the second game, Tygarts Valley worked to even the match. Their serves took a lower trajectory, making handling returns more of a challenge and tying themselves with the Wildcats at 5-5. Pendleton County started to edge ahead from that point, taking advantage of Tygarts Valley mistakes.
The Wildcats shifted into a more aggressive gear with a huge Baylee Beachler spike that put the game at 14-8. Spikes by DePue and Katie Hedrick and a beautifully placed tap at the net by Townsend, plus accurate serving from Young and Jenna Smith fueled an 11-2 run that ended the second game with precisely the same score as the first. Smith’s ace provided a powerful coda.
In the third game, the Wildcats aggressively pursued their prey from the start. Elizabeth Alt aimed an accurate set off of Tygarts Valley’s initial serve to DePue for a tap at the net that eluded defenders.
Pendleton County stormed out to an 11-2 lead with Smith firing five straight serves that Tygarts Valley failed to return. Early during the run, Alt set up Beachler nicely for a precise tap to the middle of the defense. Shortly thereafter, Townsend followed her own spike by serving an ace to keep her team ahead 13-4.
As Tygarts Valley struggled to score, Pendleton County kept edging ahead. Young’s aggressive spikes brought the force of jack hammers. Young also set up Emma Hartman for a surgical strike to the back line that put the Wildcats up 20-7.
A short 5-3 run late in the game by Tygarts Valley failed to make them competitive. A Hedrick spike and a Townsend ace sealed the match for Pendleton County. Ironically, the Wildcats showed the most dominance in the third game, but Tygarts Valley had their best result of the night. Pendleton County won game three 25-12 and the match 3-0.
After the game, Coach Rod Cooper had measured praise for his team. “I am pleased with my girls, but there’s things we need to clean up.” He explained that the team “averaged 10 points a game where the defense just has to stand there.”
“That’s an uphill battle until it’s cleaned up,” Cooper noted.
Cooper explained also that “the beauty of this young team is that we have not reached our ceiling yet.” Working on the details should help the team “peak at the right time.” He added, “we have the motivation and pride to do that.”
A home game on Sept. 19 with Bath County was cancelled, as well as last Thursday’s match against Paw Paw. Results from the Tuesday home stand against Highland were unavailable at press time. Tonight, they will face a Frankfort team who last week defeated cross county rival Keyser in a 3-2 thriller.