charleston — Shady Spring and Oak Glen have been on a volleyball collision course all season.
That collision will occur Saturday inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center when the Lady Tigers and the Lady Bears meet for the Class AA state championship.
Shady Spring won its way to the championship game Friday with a 3-0 quarterfinal win over Robert C. Byrd and a five-set semifinal win over Philip Barbour in thrilling fashion.
"I have told the girls all year long that they have been champions since they were kids and they had worked so hard. We couldn't come back here and do what we have done the last two years," Shady Spring head coach Kelly Williams said. "They just did exactly what I asked them to do. I just thank the good Lord we pulled out that last set. I am so proud of them."
After dropping its first match the last two years in the state tournament, Shady found itself one match away from the championship game Friday night. However, standing in its way was a gritty Philip Barbour team that had taken Oak Glen to five sets in the Region 2 final.
Early on, it looked like the Shady machine would run the Lady Colts out of the building with an easy 25-15 win in the first set.
As would be the case all night, what looked easy one minute became hard the next with both teams riding a wild rollercoaster of momentum.
In set two, Philip Barbour jumped out to a 10-2 lead and the Lady Tigers never recovered in a 25-18 loss. Momentum took a violent change yet again in set three when Shady built a 20-9 lead and rolled to a 25-18 win.
Set four was a nailbiter, with no team leading by more than two points most of the way. Leading 16-15 after a kill from Bradlea Hayhurst, freshman Meg Williams began to take over the game with kills from the outside to build the lead to 21-17.
The teams swapped kills before the momentum shifted back to the Lady Colts, who ran off seven straight points for an improbable 25-22 win to even the match.
Going to 15 in the decisive fifth set, things looked bleak for Shady Spring early when Philip Barbour built a quick 6-2 lead.
"We are so young and our emotions started to take hold," Williams explained about the tough stretch. "We were so exhausted and tired. We knew they were a young team also, but their coach had been here many, many times."
Fortunately for Shady, momentum had one last swing to make and it swung toward the Lady Tigers.
A huge tip from Hayhurst sparked Shady. A kill from Olivia Barnett and two unforced errors from Philip Barbour tied the set. A block by the Lady Colts put them back in front before Rylee Wiseman hit the first of two big kills down the stretch.
Three unforced errors from Philip Barbour and two kills from Williams pushed the lead to five points before a service error by Shady. Williams again hit a huge kill before Wiseman sealed the match with the set winner.
When they needed the big point down the stretch, the Tigers went to the freshman Williams and she delivered at crunch time.
"I don't know what it is with this team, but when one person starts falling behind, someone on this team picks them up," coach Williams said. "That is the great thing about our team, you never know who that person will be. Tonight it just happened to be (Meg)."
Shady Spring easily handled Robert C. Byrd in its quarterfinal match, sweeping the Lady Eagles in straight sets.
Behind 14 kills in the opening set, Shady dominated RCB 25-14 right out of the gate. The Lady Eagles kept set two close initially before Shady again overpowered them in a 25-17 win. Shady wrapped up the match with a 25-14 victory and tallied over 40 combined kills in the three-set win.
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It was a tough day for Greenbrier West, Greater Beckley Christian and Independence, who all dropped quarterfinal matches Friday.
The No. 6-seed Lady Cavaliers had high hopes of moving past No. 3 Paden City, but West had no answers all day for junior-hitter Hope Weber.
Weber kept West on its heels all match and chasing the Lady Wildcats from behind.
Failing to garner a lead in the first two sets, West quickly fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-five match. Facing elimination in set three, West rolled out to a 17-10 lead and seemed to have found a good rhythm.
However, an 8-0 run sparked by blasts from Weber turned the momentum back to Paden City, which survived a back-and-forth battle for a 27-25 win.
Greater Beckley Christian and Independence had the daunting task of playing the overall No. 1 seed in their respective classes.
The Lady Crusaders lined up against perennial Class A power Wirt County, while Independence battled undefeated Oak Glen in Class AA.
In the opening set, Greater Beckley fell behind 18-12 before battling back to tie the set at 22-22. Unfortunately for the Lady Crusaders, that would be as close as they could get as Wirt ran off three straight points for a 25-22 win.
Set two was another tight battle with no lead exceeding three points, but it was the same result for Greater Beckley. Wirt pulled away late behind massive blows from senior Kylie Stephens and junior Emma Wyer.
Facing elimination in the best-of-five match, Greater Beckley answered the bell with a 25-21 win in set three.
In the end, however, Stephens and Wyer were too much for the Lady Crusaders too off set. The duo sparked a 9-1 run to close the fourth and final set for a 25-16 win to secure the match.
Indy easily faced the tallest odds battling Oak Glen.
Led by WVU commit Skye Stokes, the Lady Bears had dominated teams on their schedule. Behind Stokes and a vast array of power hitters and dynamic servers, Oak Glen overpowered Independence in three sets.
After having last year’s state tournament roster shredded by graduation, and starting fresh with a new head coach, just making a trip back to the state tournament was a huge accomplishment according to Indy head coach Ashley Poland.
“I am just really proud of my girls and the work they put in this season,” Poland said. “It’s hard having to adjust to the expectations of a new coach, much less new faces on the floor. They came so far this year mentally and in their play. We knew it would be a challenge today. Being a low seed, we could have just rolled over, but they came in and played with confidence. We finished a lot better than most expected.”
The Class AAA championship starts today at 9:30 a.m. with Class A and then Class AA to follow on a revolving schedule.
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