Shirley Brown

(Brad Davis/The Register-Herald) Shady Spring's Riley Wiseman spikes the ball away from George Washington defender Faith Smith during Shirley Brown Invitational action Sept. 8, 2018, at Woodrow Wilson High School.

The 2019 high school volleyball season kicked off this week in West Virginia and the first big tournament of the season happens Saturday when Woodrow Wilson hosts the annual Shirley Brown Invitational.

"It really means a lot for us to open the volleyball season by hosting the first tournament," Woodrow Wilson head coach Bre Rhodes said.

Once known as the Woodrow Wilson Invitational, the tournament was renamed in 2016 for the legendary Woodrow Wilson coach, Shirley Brown.

The tournament will feature 12 teams divided into three pools. Each team will play the three teams in its pool with the top two teams advancing to the eight-team single elimination tournament. The top two third-place teams will also advance.

Woodrow Wilson will be in one pool along with Independence, Riverside and South Charleston. Shady Spring will be in pool two with Parkersburg South, George Washington and Cabell Midland. Greenbrier East will play in pool three against defending Class AAA state champion, Spring Valley, PikeView and Parkersburg.

Shady Spring advanced to the finals last year before falling to Spring Valley.

The Tigers have a solid group of returning players and could again challenge for this year's title. Senior setter Bradlea Hayhurst along with sophomores Kelsie Dangerfield and Olivia Barnett lead Shady Spring this year.

Greenbrier East, Woodrow Wilson and Independence lost some key players to graduation and will start the season searching for the right rotations and combinations.

"We are just testing the waters this weekend," Rhodes said. "We have a rotation and I just want to see what everyone has to give."

The Lady Patriots, one of the the three Class AA schools in the tournament, were arguably hit the hardest by graduation losing all six starters. First year head coach, Ashley Poland feels her team will be solid by postseason play, but also states early on, there will be some growing pains.

"This tournament has some of the best (Class) AAA teams in the state," Poland said. ""It will go a long way to helping us adjust to the speed of the game. I just want to see my team work hard Saturday."

Greenbrier East will look to replace a couple of key all-staters lost to graduation. The Lady Spartans have a strong core of players on the front-line led by team captain Maggie Thompson. 

"I looked at the schedule. We play PikeView first game, then we play Spring Valley and Parkersburg," Greenbrier East head coach Matt Sauvage said, laughing. "I am excited about because I love playing those teams. They are all really good and I enjoy it. Our girls are looking forward to teams like that and want to battle with them. We will see how the outcome goes. I will take these girls into battle with anybody."

Doors open Saturday morning at 8 a.m. and matches start on all three courts at 9 a.m.

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