By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Independence’s “refuse to lose” philosophy was put to the test last week at a team volleyball camp at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi.
The Patriots passed, with flying colors.
Competing against nine teams, including Class AAA powers Hedgesville and Hampshire, they passed, set, hit and dug their way to the camp championship.
“This group has a mindset that they will not lose,” coach Patty Bryant said. “Last year we shocked a lot of people.”
Independence compiled a 36-12-2 record last fall despite heavy losses from graduation and having just one starter, senior Kelsey Hart, at 6-foot or better.
Westside knocked the Patriots off in the tournaments, however, and they’ve been on a mission ever since.
They’re currently in the three-week summer practice period allowed by the SSAC.
“Our seniors are wanting to win so badly, they don’t care what it takes,” Bryant said. “They want to practice every day.
“Before I could work with them, they were in the gym at Independence by themselves, or at Anne Bass’ church, getting some floor time. They’re looking forward to next season.”
The dedication obviously paid off, as Independence mowed down its competition at A-B.
The Patriots sailed through five pool-play matches, then defeated Gilmer and Hampshire to reach the tournament finals. They rolled over AAA state quarterfinalist Hedgesville (25-17, 25-20 25-11) for the title.
Bryant had all-staters Bass (outside hitter) and Brooke Foley (setter) in the starting rotation, along with fellow rising seniors Skylar Kipps (outside/middle hitter) and Jenni Perkins (middle hitter), junior defender/server Jessica Adkins and sophomore defender Stephanie Fletcher.
Their positions didn’t matter, however. With three other returning players not making the trip, Bryant decided to play the six all the way around the court.
“All six of them did what they were supposed to do,” she said. “They don’t normally play all the way around, so people were out of position. But they stepped it up and did well.”
Bass, just 5-7 but blessed with power and leaping ability, recently suffered the loss of her father Mike, a strong supporter of the team.
“Anne decided on Sunday she would go with us, and we left Monday,” Bryant said. “She needed that, to get away and do what she loves to do and be with the other girls. I think it helped.”
Independence JV players Leann Aliff, Jordan Hall, Megan Testament, Heather Shupe, Madison Holley and Cierra Bolen also attended the camp. The Patriots were making their first visit, and it probably won’t be their last.
“We liked it there. We got a lot of individual attention,” Bryant said. “(Head coach) Carrie Bodkins was very visible, telling players how they could improve. It was just an awesome camp.”
The Patriots will stay busy this week. Monday they’ll play at Concord University against PikeView, Princeton, Shady Spring and possibly Greenbrier East and Capital. Tuesday they scrimmage at Liberty, while Wednesday they’ll travel back to Philippi for a tournament at Philip Barbour High School. Thursday they have a final scrimmage at Greater Beckley Christian.