By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Before the Class AAA semifinal state volleyball tournament match, Greenbrier East coach Matt Sauvage said Spring Valley was the type of team that doesn’t make mistakes.
“They make you beat them,” he said.
For the first time in seven meetings this season, his Lady Spartans did just that.
Greenbrier East (45-11-5) impressed from front row to back line as it took three of four semifinal games from the Timberwolves, 25-17, 19-25, 25-20, 25-14, to advance to today’s 9:30 a.m. state championship match with top-seeded Musselman at the Charleston Civic Center.
It was No. 2 Spring Valley that was making forced and unforced errors this time, after defeating East five times during the regular season and tying it once.
“The big thing was, we had to stay aggressive to beat them. We had no choice,” Sauvage said. “We put their defense in a bind and they couldn’t create their offense. That’s where the mistakes came from.”
All-staters Abby Brown and Kaitie Shaver played at the top of their games. Brown, just 5-foot-7, was finding the holes and giving the Spring Valley back row fits.
Shaver, if the ball came into her wheelhouse, was sending it straight down to the floor. No arguments accepted.
“They had a great hitting game. A nice tandem to have,” Sauvage said. “Abby hits with finesse, although she has power, too, and Kaitie has power.”
Others made statements, as well. Another outside hitter, Ellen Henthorn, was solid up front, and libero Abby Morgan, along with an all-over-the-court Brown, keyed the defense.
“All the girls played well. That’s the best we’ve blocked all year,” Sauvage said. “They really frustrated (Spring Valley’s) hitters.”
This will be No. 3 East’s first appearance in the finals.
“It’s surreal. I don’t know how to describe it,” Sauvage said.
n Greater Beckley Christian was also impressive in its Class A quarterfinal match with Pendleton County, winning 25-19, 17-25, 25-18, 25-17 win over Pendleton County.
The Crusaders came out swinging. Pendleton had a dominant middle, senior Hillary Ord, but Greater Beckley hitters Kayla Hill and Jana Lehman kept the ball away from her as much as possible.
They also played well, for the most part, in the semifinals against Wirt County, the school that defeated them in the 2007 and 2008 state championship games.
Wirt prevailed 25-16 and 25-18 in the first two games, then rolled over Greater Beckley in the third, 25-9.
“It was tough to see them go down in the third game after the way they battled in the first two games,” coach Kerie Lopez said.
“We played pretty good, but one of their hitters had a lot of kill errors. Once they stopped making mistakes, we started getting a little rattled.”
Greater Beckley (30-19-5) loses just one senior, setter Heather Lambert.
“We’ve got four juniors. Hopefully this will make them want to come back next year,” Lopez said.
n Independence (34-15-2) gave Philip Barbour fits in their quarterfinal match, but had an uphill battle because of its lack of size.
The Colts took the first game, 25-23 and the third, 28-26, but the Patriots had prevailed 28-26 in the second.
Then it all fell apart for Independence.
“We were playing well, but their middle (Nikki Shriver) overpowered us in the fourth game,” coach Patty Bryant said. “She came on strong, and we were lost. We went down by five and I could see the wind go out of us.”
Whatever the Patriots tried against Shriver, she found a way to offset it. Philip Barbour won the fourth game 25-16 and advanced to the semifinals.
Shriver finished with 24 kills and 11 blocks against Independence.
“We were doing all we could, but she was a very good player,” Bryant said.
“We had a great season, and they’re a great bunch of girls. I can’t say enough about our seniors (Anne Bass, Skylar Kipps, Kaitlyn Spencer, Brooke Foley, Jenni Perkins and Jessica Nelson). They’ll all go far in life.”
n Westside’s match with Robert C, Byrd was one its players and coaches would as soon forget.
The Renegades never hit their stride as they fell 25-17, 25-19, 25-14.
“What a day to have an off day,” coach Phyllis Lusk-Banther said. “My girls do not play like that. We’d see little glimpses every now and then, but it wasn’t very long.”
Passes went awry. Sets didn’t find their targets and hits went long or wide. Serves hit the net.
Robert C. Byrd, on the other hand, limited its mistakes and found holes in the Westside defense.
“When we play our ball — bump, set and spike, we win games,” Lusk-Banther said. “But we were being a little cautious and trying to dink it.”
The Renegades, making their first trip to the state tournament, conclude their year at 39-6-5. They’ll lose 11 seniors, including starters Faith Davis, Hope Davis, Mikayla Abbott, Megan Endicott, Mckenzie Endicott and Danielle Brown.
“We’ve come a long way. We lost to a good team,” Lusk-Banther said. “I’m really proud of them.”