By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Look out, West Virginia.
Those basketball-loving girls at Westside also know a thing or two about volleyball.
“I think a lot of people are very surprised,” coach Phyllis Banther said after the Renegades downed Independence 20-25, 25-17, 25-22 and 25-23 Friday in the championship game of the Class AA Region 3, Section 1 tournament in Glen Daniel.
Westside, which won its first girls basketball state championship in March, came into the tournament as the top seed, based on its record.
However, the Renegades had not played several of the teams in their section, including the Patriots.
“This was our best year ever, but some people took us for granted,” Banther said. “I’ve been telling our principal and assistant principals these girls could go to states.”
The 48-11-1 Renegades are now one match away from a trip to the state tournament in Charleston next week.
Westside will play Section 2 runner-up James Monroe, while Independence takes on Section 2 champion PikeView. Both games are at 10 a.m. today at Summers County High School.
The two winners will advance to Charleston for the state tournament, which begins Friday morning at the Charleston Civic Center.
Westside downed Summers County 25-8, 25-12, 25-18, but then fell behind the Patriots 16-15 and could never retake the lead in the first game of the finals.
They lost 25-20. Independence standout hitter Anne Bass, who dominated the game with her smashes, thought her team began to take the Renegades lightly.
“The first game we played hard, and we felt they weren’t that good. Then they came back and surprised us,” she said. “We weren’t ready for it.
“They’re very aggressive. They go after everything. They don’t stop.”
While Bass and Westside’s Mikayla Abbott continued their big hits, the game began to revolve around the Renegades’ blocking, and their ability to find holes in the Independence defense.
Good serving played its part as well, as Faith Davis, Danielle Brown and Abbott put together several scoring runs to help Westside pull away to an eight-point win.
The remaining two games were close, but Westside’s scrappy defense and accurate hitting won the night.
“I don’t think their height played a role. They beat us on tips,” Independence coach Patty Bryant said. “We didn’t get out-hit or out-served. We didn’t get the coverage on their tips. They were very scrappy.”
Of the Renegades’ seven-girl rotation, only Abbott does not play basketball. The other six are sister-tandems: Danielle and Stephanie Brown, Faith and Hope Davis and Megan and McKenzie Endicott.
Only Abbott, who plays for the Beckley Storm AAU team, competes in volleyball in the offseason.
In fact, Westside doesn’t have a feeder school.
“Other than Mikayla, they never touched a volleyball until the ninth grade,” Banther said. “But they have the desire, and they’re smart ball players.
“For them to be where they are now, without a feeder program, is awesome.”
While Abbott is the most volleyball-talented, Danielle Brown’s all-around, hustling play earned her tournament MVP honors.
“I was surprised,” she said. “There were so many out there who are so good. They chose me, but we played as a team.”
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Class AA Region 3, Section 1
At Liberty High School
Summers County d. Wyoming East 25-15, 25-9, 25-11
Independence d. Liberty 25-5, 25-19, 25-15
Westside d. Summers County 25-8, 25-12, 25-18
Westside d. Independence 20-25, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23
All-Tournament team: Avery Pivont (SC); Breanne Pertee (WE); Sam Pauley, Katelyn Hannah (Lib), Kelsey Hart, Brooke Foley, Anne Bass (Ind.); Megan Endicott, Hope Davis, Mikayla Abbott (WS).
MVP: Danielle Brown (WS).