PARKERSBURG - A quartet of senior captains, which includes returning Class AAA second team all-stater Imani Ward, will try and help veteran Parkersburg head coach Carl Harnish add another state title to the Big Reds' resume.
PHS, which hasn't won the state crown since 2007, most definitely should be in the mix for the big school title this season.
"We have a good shot," Harnish said. "Our girls, they have a little hunger to get back to the winning side instead of being runner-up, fourth or fifth.
"They've been working really hard. They have a goal set in their minds and we are going to try and achieve it this year."
Aside from Ward, who is one of the strongest punishers of the ball in the Mountain State Athletic Conference, the other three captains are fellow hitters Morgan Armstrong, Paige Warner and Megan Morrison.
"Last year, I thought our hitters were excellent again and we have almost everybody back, but we are going to miss Kayla Lowers," added the coach. "We have tremendous hitters and (sophomore) Alexandra Dils is improving.
Parkersburg Big Reds
Seniors: Morgan Armstrong*, Imani Ward*, Megan Morrison*, Paige Warner*, Rachel Slone; Juniors: Nicole Bradford, Lyxis Reeder, Kaitlin Farrah: Sophomores: Tiffany Noland, Hannah Hill, Taylor Walls, Alexandra Dils, Jordan Lallemont, Katelyn Bond, Katherine Baughan, Kathryn Quillen, Samantha Shingleton, Courtney Ball; Freshmen: Mackenzie Sims, Baylee Hilling, Emily Anderson, Morgan Fisher, Shada Harnish, Mackenzie Boone, Alison Schumacher (* Denotes captain)
Sept. 1: at Woodrow Wilson Invite
Sept. 8: at Endless Summer Invite (Virginia Beach)
Sept. 15: at Cabell Midland Invite
Sept. 20: at Civic Center Showcase Tri
Sept. 22: PHS Snowball Invite
Sept. 29: at Capital Invite
Oct. 6: at George Washington Invite
Oct. 11: Home Quad
Oct. 16: Volley For The Cure
Oct. 20: at Huntington Invite
Oct. 23: Woodrow Wilson/Oak Glen/Cabell Midland
Oct. 27: MSAC (Memorial Fieldhouse)
"Warner and Armstrong are hitting the ball hard and Morrison is getting up and finding the holes and getting the ball in play a lot and she's a good outside hitter for us."
Of course, the key to the Big Reds' 5-1 offensive attack is going to be how well the back row plays and how junior Lyxis Reeder handles the starting setter role.
"She's actually progressing really well," Harnish added. "She still needs to learn some things. She's doing a good job for us setting."
Pakersburg's backup setter is junior Jordan Lallemont. Expected to contribute heavily in the back row are juniors Nicole Bradford and Kaitlin Farrah.
Sophomore Hannah Hill, a solid server, returns and also could be asked to help in the back row.
Parkersburg Catholic transfer Rachel Slone, a senior, was an all-around player for the Crusaderettes and will provide solid depth for the red and white after she learns the ins and outs of the PHS attack.
Coach Harnish noted sophomore 6-footer Samantha Shingleton is another hitter the Big Reds can use. Harnish's granddaughter, Shada Harnish, is also on the varsity squad.
"Last year we had a hard time trying to get the ball to our hitters and we are trying to work real hard on that," coach Harnish added while noting his team also has to be more mentally tough this season.
Others vying for varsity time in the sophomore class include Courtney Ball, Kathryn Quillen, Katherine Baughan, Katelyn Bond, Taylor Walls and Tiffany Noland. The rest of the freshman class includes Alison Schumacher,Mackenzie Boone, Morgan Fisher, Emily Anderson, Baylee Hilling and Mackenzie Sims.