The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 8, 2012

Panthers to make 1st trip to state tourney

So what makes PikeView’s volleyball team good?

“I was thinking about it the other day, talking to another coach,” Panthers coach Steve Compton said. “Last year, we had two really strong middle hitters. This year, we have six players. No one could carry us, but they all play together as a team.”

PikeView (24-16-1) will play Ritchie County at 1:30 p.m. Friday in a Class AA first-round game of the state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center. It’s the first-ever trip to states for the school.

The Panthers’ skill and desire to win has shined brightly during the tournaments. They defeated James Monroe, a team that had beaten them three times in the regular season, for the Section 2 crown.

The next day they knocked off perennial champion Independence, and James Monroe again, in the Region 3 tournament.

“We wanted to win our section and avoid playing Independence in the semifinals,” Compton said. “But their section didn’t work that way (Westside beat the Patriots in five games).

“Independence had beaten us twice before, but this time they made critical errors and we played them pretty solid.

“We kept the pressure on them — we hit the ball at them and didn’t allow them to hit it to us.”

Junior Alexis May and sophomore Haleigh Compton have played very well in the middle.

May, at 5-foot-10 the tallest player on the team, played Junior Olympics volleyball last spring and returned a different player.

“Alexis has done a 180. She’s been a phenom at the net,” Compton said. “When she gets hold of it, she can hit it as good as anybody. She does a good job of blocking at the net with her long arms.

The 5-8 Compton, daughter of the coach, moved to the front after starting at libero last season.

She leads the Panthers in both kills and blocks.

“Haleigh is a left-handed middle, which gives other teams fits. It confuses them,” Steve Compton said. “She gets up really well.”

Savannah Coalson, a 5-6 sophomore transfer from Shady Spring, brings volleyball smarts to the other outside hitter spot. A tremendous defensive player, she’s also the best passer on the team.

Another hitter, Lena Hayworth, a 5-7 senior, is a good cross-court hitter and tremendous server.

Lyndsey Hatfield, a 5-7 sophomore, and Savannah Runion, a 5-8 junior, are the backups. Hatfield is a three-sport athlete, while Runion, the team’s utility player, is a solid passer, setter and blocker.

Holly Mack and Hannah Cook are the setters in the Panthers’ 6-2 offense. Compton calls Mack, who has 1,034 assists, the team’s anchor.

“People say Holly just glides. She can get to nearly every ball,” Compton said. “She’s also tall, and jumps well enough that we sometimes use her as a blocker.”

Cook is not only a fine second setter, but is a tremendous server. She leads the team in aces.

Junior libero Kristen Worrell and fellow back-row defender Stevie Thomure, a senior, are both excellent passers.

“In the back row, digging and passing, we’re as good as anybody,” Compton said. “It’s the front row and setters who have really improved over the season.”

They’ll meet a Ritchie County team that defeated Weir in four games in the Region 2 semifinals, but dropped a 25-20, 25-10, 25-21 decision to Oak Glen in the championship match.

Softball star Cassidy Ray had nine kills in the match with Oak Glen, as did Kenna Delancey. Leah Kuhn added seven blocks, and Veronica Mueller made 21 digs.

The Rebels were 2009 state champions and runners-up last season to Oak Glen.

“I don’t know much about them, but looking at their roster, they’re similar in height to us,” Compton said.

“I told the girls, we’ll go up there and see what happens.”

— E-mail: dstillwell@register-herald.com

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