PARKERSBURG - Head coach Missy Smith's Patriots of George Washington will be back in town Saturday to defend the Snowball Invitational volleyball crown they captured last year in three sets versus host Parkersburg.
Although the 37th annual event has just two pools of five teams with play beginning at 9 a.m. inside Memorial Fieldhouse, there will be plenty of star power on board including several potential Mountain State player of the year candidates.
George Washington, led by West Virginia University recruit Hannah Shreve, is slated to play in Pool B along with Doddridge County, Parkersburg Catholic, the Parkersburg Big Red junior varsity squad and Woodrow Wilson, which features 2011 Class AAA second team all-stater Anne Patterson.
A pair of Marshall University recruits - Cassie Weaver and Taylor Riedel - pave the way for Cabell Midland, which will tangle with the host Big Reds and Class A state runner-up Williamstown along with Magnolia and Wheeling Park.
Parkersburg, which has returning second team Class AAA all-state pick Imani Ward, has had a shifting lineup according to veteran red and white head coach Carl Harnish here in the early portion of the season.
"We're having our ups and downs right now," Harnish admitted. "We haven't been consistent in anything we've done, but we are hoping we will be more consistent since it's our own tournament. We've moved Megan Morrison to libero and she was our outside hitter.
"We've moved Morgan Armstrong from right side to left side and moved Samantha Shingleton to back side hitter. She's our left-handed hitter and we are going to be taller up front."
Harnish said there was little question that George Washington "has the edge on us right now, but we are trying to redeem ourselves."
Williamstown head coach Rachelle Pallini's Yellowjackets recently knocked off Cabell Midland, but like most teams this early in the season she knows there are still many facets of the game to work on.
"We are in a tough pool, but at times the girls have proven they can beat just about anybody," Pallini said. "We just really have been up and down, sadly.
"We've went out there and looked great at times and then we just have minor meltdowns, but when they play up to their potential they will be pretty hard to stop I think."
Doddridge County returns after being absent from the Snowball last season.
"I'm pretty excited about it," said Bulldog head coach Kris Bonnell. "We want to be in these tournaments. There was just a mix up last year.
"We're in tournaments every weekend, but October 6th. We're getting better and better."
Tournament action begins with Parkersburg taking on Williamstown while Parkersburg Catholic squares off versus the Big Red junior varsity team.