Snowball Invite pool play begins

Ritchie County’s Brianna Jones, pictured here setting the ball earlier this season, will join her Rebel teammates at today’s second annual Carl Harnish Snowball Invitational. Photo by Jay W. Bennett.

PARKERSBURG — A loaded field will be on hand when the second annual Carl Harnish Snowball Invitational gets underway at 9 a.m. today inside Memorial Fieldhouse.

While every coach wants to win their own tournament, Big Red boss Erin Thorpe knows that task is never easy.

Last year, the Big Reds reached the tournament finals but were upended by the Flying Eagles of Woodrow Wilson — 20-25, 25-17 and 16-14.

“It’s definitely going to be a battle for whoever wins it all this weekend,” admitted Thorpe. “If we can get into it mentally, my girls can achieve anything.”

This year’s tournament is basically a month earlier and Thorpe credited Parkersburg South head coach Becky Bennett for swapping dates with the Patriots’ annual Fall Brawl.

“A lot of the best teams weren’t able to come last year because of homecoming at their own schools,” Thorpe noted. “I wanted to have a tournament with the strongest teams because you only get better by playing teams that are going to challenge your own. It’s fun to win all of the time, but you learn more from hard games and losses.”

Woodrow Wilson head coach Bre Rhodes is looking forward to the chance at a repeat crown, but she knows that’s not going to be easy.

“We are excited to get back up to Memorial Fieldhouse,” Rhodes stated. “We didn’t get the results we wanted last weekend at our home opener tournament, but we put hard work in this week, changed some things around and are hoping for different results Saturday.

“We are trying to find a rotation that clicks right now. We lost three seniors and I’m hoping some of my underclassmen can make up for that. I will say this freshman class is very versatile and I love it.”

The same goes for the Big Reds.

“Our offense is stronger this year than what we had last year overall and our defense is solid,” Thorpe added. “I think we are still trying to figure out how to work the rotation a little bit and offer different options.

“Almost every player I have is able to play any position so that’s a good thing, but tough in terms of putting something together to put on the floor. We changed the lineup a bit for this weekend. That allows a lot more options for us.”

The 12-team field consists entirely of Class AAA programs aside from single-A Little Kanahwa Conference member Ritchie County.

Pool play will be two sets to 25 with a cap of 28. After that, the squads will be ranked and there will be a play-in match between No. 8 and No. 9 to get into the tournament quarterfinals, which will be best of three. All third sets in the tournament will be to 15.

∫ Also in action today at Buffalo’s “Battle in the Barn” are LKC programs Wirt County, Williamstown and Roane County.

The nine-team round-robin tournament allows everyone to play eight matches with the top two schools advancing to the championship showdown.