CHARLESTON - It was a different year, but the result was the same Saturday morning inside the Charleston Civic Center during the Class AA state championship volleyball match.
Veteran Oak Glen head coach Ethel Riser's Golden Bears (40-6) successfully defended their state crown by once again knocking off Ritchie County - 25-16, 25-16 and 25-19.
"It feels wonderful," Riser said. "We haven't won back-to-back since 1997-98. We wanted to prove that we could do it. I knew they had it in them. They had the talent and the will to win and just came out determinted today. They wanted it 1, 2, 3 and they got it."
Members of the Oak Glen volleyball team celebrate their West Virginia Class AA state title Saturday.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
First-year Ritchie County coach Melanie Allender's Rebels (26-14) had two dozen unforced errors in the first two sets and despite getting a match-high 13 kills from Kenna DeLancey, the seasoned Golden Bears were just too much.
Although the Rebels stormed out to a 4-0 cushion in the opening set behind two DeLancey kills and one downed spike apiece from Leah Kuhn and Cassidy Ray, once the Golden Bears took the lead for good at 12-11 on a Vanessa Hissam kill, Ritchie County didn't get another advantage until 13-12 in set three via a DeLancey smash from one of Olivia Haught's match-high 25 assists.
Although Rebel Vanessa Tallman's service point put the Golden Bears behind 14-12 in the third set, Oak Glen fought back thanks to the play of Morgan Poling and Lacee Porter. A Rebel attack error actually gave Oak Glen the lead for good at 17-16, but that increased to 18-16 when Jessica Stivason put one down. Hissam later added two kills, Abby Tice had an ace and it was 23-18 Golden Bears after Porter's eighth and final kill of the match.
Kaitlyn Smith, who joined Tice, Porter and Poling on the All-Tournament team, was credited with match point at the service line when Poling collected her 10th kill from Carissa Williams' sixth assist. Poling added six blocks and Hissam also finished with 10 downed spikes.
"The seniors wanted it so bad. We had too many errors. We just didn't click," said Allender, whose team received match-highs of 21 digs from Tallman and seven blocks by Tristin Toman.
"We work hard every day," said Riser, whose team didn't lose a match this year to double-A competition. "They are a close knit team and that has to be a major part of it. Now, we're going for three in a row."
Oak Glen, which also got 17 points, 13 assists and two aces from Sydney Kell, picked up the sportsmanship award. Tice added 11 digs while Madison Juszczak and Jessia Hutton combined for three kills.
Asked where this state title ranks with the four others Oak Glen has won, Riser said it's right up there.
"They're all different," she said. "But this one is up there with the best. I'm going to miss our four seniors. I've watched them grow over the past four years.
"We got four on the All-Tournament team. That is almost unheard of. I congratulated all of them, but it could've been anyone on the team. It was a total team effort."
Ray, Toman and DeLancey also collected All-Tournament nods along with Lauren Young of Nicholas County and Philip Barbour's Sydney Curtis.
In the finals setback for the Rebels, Amanda Davis added 11 digs, two points, a pair of kills, six blocks and three assists. Janessa Adams contributed seven points and five digs while Veronica Mueller had four points, two aces and 14 digs.