Shady Spring begins its quest for a sixth state volleyball title today at the Charleston Civic Center.

The Tigers will play Frankfort at 3 p.m. in a Class AA opening-round contest. While Shady coach Susan Parsons believes her squad is ready to play, she also knows the Falcons are an unknown quantity for her girls.

“We’ve practiced, practiced, practiced and we’ve ... I was going to say practiced,” Parsons joked Thursday evening. “We’ve mentally got ourselves ready for (Frankfort), but we don’t know anything about them.”

Frankfort, which returned 10 girls from last year’s state tournament team that lost in the semifinals, finished second in Region 2. The Falcons lost to No. 1-ranked Philip Barbour in the regional final.

“We know absolutely nothing about this team,” Parsons said. “We’re going into this game thinking that they are top-notch.”

Shady Spring (21-3) is also making a return trip to the tournament.

The Tigers were eliminated by eventual state champion Ritchie County in the opening round in 2004.

Parsons believes her team is better prepared this year.

“Mentally, we’ve got ourselves relaxed,” Parsons said. “We’ve got our mind in the game. That’s all I can say. We’ve got our mind set.”

With the Tigers not playing until late in the afternoon, Parsons elected to keep her team home Thursday night and travel this morning instead.

“We don’t play until 3 p.m.,” she said. “We’re going down early in the morning so we can watch some other games and see other teams play.”

She hopes that staying with a regular routine will benefit the squad.

“That gives them a better edge,” Parsons said. “They’re more settled. When they get down there, they’re going to be excited.”

To advance, Shady will have to play a very disciplined game.

“We have to block,” Parsons said. “We not only have to block, our hits have to be precise, our sets have to be precise and our serving has to be 99 percent. If we block and get our hits off, we’ll be OK.”

The hitting begins with setter Samantha Daniels, who put together strong performances in both the sectional and regional tournaments for the Tigers. The junior was named tournament MVP of the sectional tournament in Hinton.

“She can communicate with the team,” Parsons said. “That’s what it takes for a setter — to communicate with all our hitters. They react to her. Wherever she sets, they can hit and that’s the main thing there, getting them accurate.”

Spiking for Shady are junior Alex Albright and senior April Warden, while Nicole Konstenko handles the blocking.

“If Alex and April’s hitting is precise,” Parsons said, “they’re tough.”

The back row is anchored by seniors, Catelyn Shrader and Amber Kirk. Sophomore Brandi Phillips has moved to the libero position and helped solidify the defense.

“I think we’ve got our back row down pretty good,” Parsons said. “That libero comes in handy. That’s something that we’ve tried this year. Shady wasn’t used to it, but it’s working out and next year it’ll really be a plus for us.”

Brittany Phillips and Eden Rowe are also key contributors, Phillips as a server and Rowe as a hitter.

If the Tigers win the opening-round contest, they will face the winner of Winfield vs. Oak Glen at 8 p.m. today in the semifinals.

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