Charleston — Momentum in volleyball is never a trustworthy friend.
One day after a shift in momentum led to a come-from-behind win over Philip Barbour in the semifinals, old Mo' turned its back on Shady Spring Saturday in the Class AA state championship game against Oak Glen.
With Shady leading 2-0 in the best-of-five match, a big shift in momentum gave Oak Glen the burst of energy it needed to stage a huge comeback for a 3-2 win that secured the state championship at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.
"We came out strong in those first two sets," Shady Spring head coach Kelly Williams said. "I am not sure what happened, but I am really proud of (my team). We had a great season and hard work does pay off. To be second in the state is not too bad. I am super proud of them. It has been a long time since we have seen something come back to Shady Spring High School."
To start the match, Shady played loose and carefree while Oak Glen looked tight and out of sync. The Lady Tigers took full advantage.
Kills by Chloe Thompson and a pair of aces from Kelsie Dangerfield led to a 9-0 run which Shady parlayed into a 25-15 win in the opening set.
Oak Glen tried to rally in set two, but Shady used another 7-0 run to negate a two-point deficit. With the score tied at 23-23, Meg Williams closed out the set with two huge kills for a 2-0 lead.
With her team facing elimination, Oak Glen head coach Morgan Poling knew something had to change in order to make a comeback.
"To be honest, I told them to let loose and have fun," Poling said. "We play our best volleyball when we let loose and have fun. That is what we did. Anytime you are in the state final, the pressure is on. At first the pressure got to us, but we were able to come out of that and push through."
In the first two sets, Shady had done a good job of neutralizing the dynamic serving and powerful front line of the Lady Bears, which included WVU commit Skye Stokes.
In set three, Stokes started to heat up, dropping some explosive bombs all over the floor, and her team followed in kind.
"We knew we had it in us because all year, coach has been telling us we are an unstoppable team if we just play together," Stokes said. "We just banded together and pushed hard."
Behind nine kills and four aces from Stokes, Oak Glen regained the momentum and twice fought off comeback efforts from Shady to take a 25-23 win in set three.
"We did some different stuff in set three and moved the ball around more, so everyone was opened up and it started working," Stokes said.
Shady fell behind in set four, 13-7, but fought back to within one point before a service error stopped the run. Two kills from Stokes made the lead four points and Oak Glen evened the match with a 25-17 win.
"I think we hurt ourselves. We (allowed) ourselves to get down," Williams said. "It has been a really emotional couple of days. (Oak Glen) is a great team, no doubt, but we kind of beat ourselves at the end."
After benefiting from a 9-0 run in the opening set, Shady was victimized by the same run in set five. Tied 4-4, Oak Glen ran off nine straight and secured the state championship with a 15-5 win.
"We talk a lot in our gym daily about embracing your role and giving everything that you have," Poling said. "I am a huge believer, and the girls are, too, that one person doesn't make a team. It takes a full team effort. (Today) that is what we showed, a full team effort."
Oak Glen finished the season undefeated at 38-0 and the only Class AA team to beat Shady Spring all year.
Shady Spring won the sportsmanship award, while the all-tournament team consisted of Williams, Bradlea Hayhurst and Brooke Presley from Shady Spring, Stokes, Jaedyn Hissam and Hannah Rogers from Oak Glen, Alyssa Hill and Emma Kennedy from Philip Barbour and Shae Hefner from Bridgeport.
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