By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Greenbrier East came away with more than a loss from Saturday’s Class AAA Region 3 volleyball tournament.
The Spartans gained confidence, coach Matt Sauvage said, from their 3-0 defeat at the hands of state tournament favorite George Washington.
“The first game (25-12) was a letdown, and left a lot for the girls to get back into,” Sauvage said. “But skill-wise, the last two games (25-19, 25-20) we were able to play with them, and the girls realized that.”
By finishing as Region 3 runner-up, East advanced to this week’s state tournament, Friday and Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center.
The Spartans had defeated Woodrow Wilson in five games the day before in the Section 2 final, and had beaten Capital in three games in the regional semifinals.
“Capital stepped up, but we played very well,” Sauvage said. “We didn’t play our greatest against GW, but the potential is there.
“I think the girls are more confident now than they’ve been all year. They’re really relaxed and ready to play. The pressure is off them now.”
East (41-8-3) will face Parkersburg (42-13-1) at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the state quarterfinals. Parkersburg was ranked No. 4 in the final state poll, while the Spartans were No. 5.
Sauvage thinks the match will be a toss-up.
“We watched game film today and I think we’re right there with them,” he said. “It’s just who shows up that day. They’re a good team, but we’re a good team ourselves.”
Although not blessed with team height, the Spartans play with skill, aggressiveness at the net and hustle in the back row.
Katie Shaver, a 5-foot-11 junior and three-year starter, and Kaitlyn Mize, a 6-foot freshman, are the middles. Shaver averages 3.3 kills and 0.5 block per game.
The outside hitters are small in stature, 5-9 or less, but powerful.
Abby Brown, a 5-8 sophomore, leads the team with 536 kills, 4.7 per game. A versatile player, she also has 332 digs (2.9).
Haley Carey has 124 kills, while right-side hitter and three-year starter Ellen Henthorn has 197 kills and 89 service aces. Reserve Storrie Sherwood has a 34.2 percent kill percentage.
“We’re not that tall, but we play above the net as good as any team in the state,” Sauvage said.
The Spartans are also solid in other positions. Setter Laura Baker has 1,139 assists, or 9.9 per game, and a 97.4 serving percentage.
“That serving percentage is the highest I’ve ever had,” Sauvage said. “She’s hit something like 124 straight serves.”
Libero Cassie Ford, a three-year starter, has 788 digs, and defensive specialists Abby Morgan and Olivia Talbott have 110 and 57 digs, respectively.
“This is probably the best team I’ve had at turning defense into offense at a very fast pace,” Sauvage said. “We rely on defense, blocking and passing.
“They’re very quick with sets and hits. We have to do a lot of quick things, rather than overpowering someone.”
It’s the second time Sauvage has taken the Spartans to states in his seven years as head coach. The personal milestone means little to him.
“I get so excited and emotional for the girls. I coach for them,” he said. “I want them to have an experience they’ll remember all their lives.
“I am so proud of them. They know their roles and there are no issues. I couldn’t ask for anybody better to coach. It’s not just the wins, it’s everything. It’s been an awesome year.”
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