Old rivals Wirt, Tyler clash today at state

Wirt County senior Mahala Greenleaf, who has 77 aces this season, prepares to serve the ball during a match earlier this year. The Tigers are attempting to reach the Class A state finals for a third straight year and face off against Tyler Consolidated at 1:30 p.m. today in the state quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center. Photo by Jay W. Bennett.

PARKERSBURG — A decade ago at the West Virginia state volleyball tournament, which gets underway this morning inside the Charleston Civic Center, Tyler Consolidated captured the Class AA title while Wirt County was in the midst of winning its third straight single-A crown en route to a four-peat.

At 1:30 p.m. today, the two Little Kanawha Conference programs will clash in the state quarterfinals with the loser calling it a season and the victor moving on to tonight’s semifinals versus the Greater Beckley Christian/Moorefield survivor.

“Wirt is a great program and we’ll have our hands full,” admitted Silver Knight head coach Richard Summers, whose squad is 22-17-2 and finished runner-up to Ritchie County in the Region I championship.

The LKC champion Tigers, who boast six seniors and improved to 45-3-3 following last Saturday’s Region IV finals sweep of Williamstown in Elizabeth, finished state runner-up in 2016 to East Hardy and won it all in 2015.

“We only played Tyler once this year and it went five sets, so we know we will have our hands full in that environment,” stated Tiger head coach Janet Frazier. “I’m sure coach Summers will have his team ready for us. We wouldn’t take any team lightly at the state tournament, but we especially won’t take Tyler lightly.

“They always come to play and they have some really nice players on their team. They are just fundamentally good. Some of our girls played club together with theirs this past year, so we know how good they can be.”

Tyler Consolidated has been led by a solid trio of juniors this fall. Josey Jones has 75 blocks to go along with more than both 300 kills and digs while Alexa Johnson has 420 kills and 101 blocks. Silver Knight setter JoLee Walton has 60 aces, nearly 200 digs and 854 assists.

Johnson had a match-high 16 kills against Ritchie County in the regional setback. Coach Summers’ squad also features hitters Emily Lancaster and Regan Smith. Cora Grimm’s 16 digs tied for match-high regional finals honors and the Silver Knights also will work in Peyton Kocher, Madison DeVaughn as well as Allie and Summer Miller.

“We’ve worked hard this year,” coach Summers added. “I credit our kids for not breaking under a rather tough schedule. We had a very difficult sectional with some very good teams.

“It took a lot to advance and to be in the final eight is pretty special. Janet has does a great job with her team. We’re preparing the best we can and we’re excited about the challenge that is in front of us. And half the tournament field is LKC teams, which says something about how tough the Little Kanawha Conference is.”

Leading the way for the orange and black has been a close-knit group of 12th-graders who landed a pair of first-team all-staters last fall in setter Katie Frazier and outside hitter Haley Moore. Frazier has 113 aces, 76 kills and 1,156 assists while Moore leads the team with 486 kills and also has contributed 53 blocks and 55 aces.

The experience for the Tigers is deep as senior middle Loden Campbell has posted 163 kills and 159 blocks. Senior libero Emily Cottrell has 48 aces and 422 digs and fellow 12th-graders Mahala Greenleaf (77 aces, 198 digs) and Taylor Anderson (236 digs) keep balls alive for a Tiger offense. which also features sophomore Kylie Stephens (402 kills, 50 blocks) and freshman Emma Wyer (132 kills, 97 blocks).

“We are just happy to be where we are, glad to make it out of our tough section and headed to state,” coach Frazier continued. “The girls are excited, but taking nothing for granted. They know once we get down there. anything can happen.”