Greater Beckley and West flying under the radar

Greater Beckley Christian’s Zaniya Colin strikes the ball during practice at the school in Prosperity on Tuesday.Chris Jackson/ The Register-Heald

There are very few absolutes in sports, but Greater Beckley Christian earning its way to the Class A state volleyball tournament has come pretty close to an absolute.

Current head coach Tracie Fisher has led the Lady Crusaders to the postseason in each of her first two seasons and Greater Beckley made frequent trips to the state tournament under previous head coach, Kerie Lopez.

Friday, Greater Beckley Christian will make it three years in a row under Fisher when it opens state tournament play against Wirt County.

Entering the 2019 season, Greater Beckley again had postseason expectations with a strong group of returning players. However, as is often the case in sports, things did not quite go as easy as planned.

First the Lady Crusaders had to fend off elimination against Summers County in sectional play just to qualify for the regionals. In regional action against Charleston Catholic, things looked bleak after Greater Beckley fell behind 2-1 in the best-of-five match.

“Charleston Catholic is a really good, scrappy team and they have four good seniors,” Fisher said. “I knew they would be gunning for us and my girls didn’t show up to play. We always seem to start out slow.”

With its back against the wall, Greater Beckley flipped the switch and took set four before dominating the final set to secure another trip to Charleston.

“It is like I have two totally different teams,” Fisher said, smiling. “We have proven it all year. If we are in a do-or-die situation, we play really well.”

The Lady Crusaders are led by four strong hitters in senior Zaniya Colin, junior Courtney Green and sophomores Faith Brooks and Emma-Grace Holstein who combine to average 10 kills per game.

Wirt County comes in as the top-seed in Class A. The Tigers have won 11 state titles, the most recent coming in 2017.

Fisher knows winning the opening match will be tough, but is confident her girls will be ready.

“I think they know what to expect and they are ready to do what we have done to get there.” Fisher said. “I expect us to serve tough, pass well and play good defense. Our hitting will be fine. If we are taking care of the ball on our side, it doesn’t matter who we are playing.”

State tournament expectations were also high in Charmco to start the season under sixth-year head coach Cindy Nutter who returned a strong group of veteran volleyball players.

After making some adjustments towards the midpoint of the season, the Lady Cavaliers kicked things into high gear and rolled to both the sectional and regional championships on their way to the state tournament.

Now Greenbrier West is looking to play its way to Saturday’s championship game after two opening round exits the last two years. For that to happen, they must first knock off Paden City in the quarterfinals.

“We just have to play our game because that is what has us where we are right now,” Nutter said. “We won’t be as nervous this time, I think. They have been there, they know how it works. They have seen and played in the Civic Center, so they know what to expect. Paden City has never been there, so it will all be new to them. We just have to go in confident that we can get it done.”

Greenbrier West is led in attacking by senior outside-hitter, Kenley Posten, averaging four kills per set and sophomore middle, Kenzie O’Dell. However, West also gets solid contribution at the net from sophomore Brooklynn Morgan, as well as junior Logan Vandall and senior Reegan Lively.

The hitting success comes from one of the best setters in the state, Julie Agee, and when Lively is not finding gaps at the net, she is frustrating the opposition from the service line.

“Reegan is a very smart player,” Nutter said. “If she can see a hole, she will find it. She is one of the best spot-servers we have.”

Paden City will counter with power hitting juniors, Hope Weber, 513 kills on the year, and Mallory Yeater, 270 kills on the season. Yeater also leads the team in assists with 618.

West enters the tournament as the No. 6-seed, while Greater Beckley is the No. 8-seed.

“Actually it is what I expected. A lot of the single-A teams haven’t seen us and really don’t know what we have,” Nutter said about the seedings. “But, we are facing a No. 3-seed that has never been there before and being the No. 6-seed might be a little beneficial. Other teams may over look us because we are the 6-seed.”

Greater Beckley will play the second match of the morning session, while Greenbrier West will play the second match of the afternoon session Friday.

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