Wheeling Park Volleyball Falls Just Shy of Charleston
WELLSBURG — It was a stepping stone season for Coach Samantha Gentle and the Wheeling Park volleyball team.
The Patriots earned their first OVAC title and came up just shy of making their first trip to the state tournament.
On Saturday night, Park went toe-to-toe with Morgantown in the Class AAA, Region One semifinal but ultimately fell in a five set thriller 21-25, 26-24, 14-25, 25-20 and 15-12 at Brooke.
The Patriots were hopeful coming into the match, not only after an impressive regular season and a sectional title, but also following two sweeps of the Mohigans this year.
“We came in expecting to win because we beat Morgantown twice already this year,” Gentle said. “But this Morgantown team came out and they wanted it. They looked a lot better than they did the first two times we played them.”
Unlike Park, Morgantown is accustomed to punching its ticket to state. That familiarity with the late postseason pressure may have also been a factor.
“We definitely had some ups and downs,” Gentle said.
“Our kids came in with high expectations. We’ve kind of been the underdog all year and Morgantown has been here. They are here every year.
“I told my kids that they expect to go to Charleston every year.
“I think we played well but just came up a little bit short, so that’s frustrating.”
Park won the first set and was looking for its third victory over Morgantown this year but the Mohigans bounced back in the second set, taking a 24-21 advantage late.
However, the Patriots showed resilience and fought back to knot the count at 24-24. Then, it was Morgantown showing resolve with the final two points to even the match at 1-1.
“They played with tenacity (Saturday),” Morgantown coach Erica Manor said of her team. “It’s so good to see that. I’m so proud of every single one of the girls.”
The Patriots looked to be getting back on track in the third set as it ran away with a 25-14 triumph — leaving it one set away from Charleston.
Morgantown had other plans as it secured a 25-20 win to force a fifth and decisive set.
The Mohigans carried momentum into that last set by the way of a quick 5-0 outburst. Park rallied with a 10-3 run to take a 10-8 edge.
Moments later, with the score deadlocked at 11-11, the Mohigans caught fire, reeling off the last four of five points with Alayna Corwin supplying the final kill past the Park defense.
“There were some highs and lows,” Manor said. “I told the girls to ‘stay in the grind. No matter what happens, put it behind us and look forward to the next one.’
“We had some ups and downs but they pushed through one point at a time. We were very successful because of that against a very good Wheeling Park team.”
Ally Franko paced Wheeling Park with 17 kills, followed by Rachel Simon’s 16 and Leah Gaudino’s 13.
Anya Ritz sparked the offense with 49 assists.
Franko also tallied 25 digs, as did the lone senior on the team, Gaudino.
“We’re only losing one senior and Leah had a phenomenal game,” Gentle said. “I felt terrible for her because we wanted it bad for her and she wanted it but we couldn’t give it to her.”
Despite the loss, only losing one senior leaves a large window for the Patriots to achieve success in the upcoming seasons.
“I think this shows promise for the future of our program,” Gentle said. “We should be at this level every year.
“I definitely see a positive looking forward.”
University d. Brooke 25-16, 25-21, 25-8
Natalie Ryan dished out 10 assists and gathered eight digs but Brooke fell in straight sets to University, which eventually downed Morgantown for the regional title.
Ava Bolen was fearless at the net with eight blocks for the Bruins, while Mia Camilletti and Preslei Ridgely each collected 17 digs and Maria Kamarados added 14.
Oak Glen d. Philip Barbour 21-25, 25-16, 25-14, 17-25, 15-13
NEW CUMBERLAND — Skye Stokes accumulated 37 kills and Jaedyn Hissam tallied 51 assists as Oak Glen rolled past Philip Barbour for the Class AA, Region One title.
The Golden Bears advance to state with the win.
McKayla Goodlin supplied nine kills and Brittney Giorgini added eight digs.
Oak Glen d. Frankfort 25-19, 25-13, 25-13
Stokes led the way with 14 kills, Hannah Rogers recorded 10 kills and Hissam added 32 assists as the Golden Bears downed Frankfort.