PARKERSBURG - Wood County's two Class AAA volleyball programs each have the same goal this year as last - reach the state tournament in Charleston and be one of the final eight squads left vying for a championship.
Parkersburg South finished its season at 20-17 last year for head coach Becky Bennett and lost in the state quarterfinals to eventual champion George Washington. PHS head coach Carl Harnish's Big Reds had a stellar season and went 43-14-1, but were ousted from the postseason after falling to Musselman in the state semifinals.
Both teams open up their season today as the Patriots head to Oak Glen to participate in the Golden Bears' VFW Invitational while the Big Reds are competing for the third straight season in the Endless Summer Tournament inside the Virginia Beach Civic Center.
Each of the two local squads lost a lot of talent from a year ago, but at the same time they both feel anything less than another appearance in the state tournament will be a disappointing campaign.
"We've been waiting and the girls are chomping at the bit to play some competition," said coach Bennett, who like PHS will run a 5-1 offense with junior Patriot Taylor Ratliff expected to do the setting.
"We've got a talented squad coming back and we're trying to get that into the girls. We could be competing for a state championship this year. We have to get a little bit better every time we play."
PHS senior Lyxis Reeder will key the offense for the Big Reds as their setter. Of course, coach Harnish has been stressing to his team all preseason the biggest key is passing. If the defense can stay strong and turn in solid serve-receive efforts PHS should be just fine.
"We are so much better defensively than we were last year," Harnish addmited. "We're not the hardest hitting team as we've been in the past years, but we're blocking better. Our girls are real comfortable in their ability and we feel that we will be back to contend."
A stark contrast between the two rivals comes in terms of their rosters as PHS, aside from Reeder, only has two other seniors in libero Kaitlin Farrah and defensive specialist Nicole Bradford.
Parkersburg South has eight seniors on its roster - libero Logan Somerville, defensive specialists Katie Harper and Lexi Hoover along with hitters Kayleigh Rexroad, Kasey Williams, Sara McPeek, Brittany Boso and Nicole Landis.
Patriot 10th-grader Katelyn Byrd is trying to round into volleyball form after missing last year due to injury. The Patriots also feature Mariah Parsons, Chelsie Deems and Amber Cottrell.
The Big Reds will look to get kill production from the likes of Alexandra Dils, Jordan Lallemont, Sam Shingleton, Allison Schumacher, Shada Harnish and Courtney Ball. Hannah Hill is a defensive specialist and PHS also has the services of Katelyn Bond, Tiffany Noland, Katie Quillen and Katherine Baughan.
"They feel confident and that's half the battle," Harnish added. "When you can get them to fill that, then you win."
For coach Bennett, she said the absolute biggest key is "they have to be there to support each other and there has to be communincation. They have to work toward being a family. We can compete with anybody in the state if we come out the way we should."